What a past few weeks it has been for the third-year guard and former No. 7 overall pick, Killian Hayes! If we use the Detroit Pistons game vs the Boston Celtics on Nov. 9 as the starting point for his ascension, that tracks a 13-game sample size.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written before Killian Hayes had the best game of his life. The stats have been updated to account for the 22-point performance in an overtime win against the Dallas Mavericks, but the rest of the text and the video remains unaltered].
Here is a comparison of Hayes’ first two season in the league with his most recent 13-game stretch:
First 2 Seasons - 25.2 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 37% on 7.2 FGA, 27% on 2.6 3PA, 44% on 4.6 2PA
Last 13 Games - 29.3 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 44.4% on 11.1 FGA, 37.5% on 3.7 3PA, 47.9% on 7.2 2PA
We will look at each level of his scoring through these games, but it is important to note the change in overall confidence from Hayes. Perhaps the most impressive development for him is his unwavering aggressiveness even following a missed shot, turnover or even overall bad-shooting game (1-for-8 against the Los Angeles Clippers comes to mind).
Having watched every minute of Hayes’ young career, it would be frustrating to watch him miss a shot and then turn down ensuing good looks simply because of the aforementioned miss.
Hayes has also been no stranger to injuries throughout 3.25 seasons, and while he has avoided anything major during this stretch *KNOCK ON WOOD* (RIGHT NOW!) he has had some “minor” bumps and bruises. In the past, it seemed these would knock him off rhythm for multiple games, but that has not been the case recently.
It is important to note that much of Hayes’ value comes from other aspects of the game, primarily defense and passing, but this breakdown will focus solely on his ability to score the basketball.
We will start outside the arc and work our way in with Hayes. Simply put, during this stretch, the 6-foot-5 guard is making the 3-point attempts you need him to make.
When teams are trying to go under a ball screen, he is showing an ability to stop and knock it down behind the screen. When teammates drive and kick, short-roll or bend the defense, he has been able to convert when being the beneficiary of those play types.
Hayes is shooting 37% over the past 13 games from behind the 3-point line, but that number actually jumps to 40% if you take away all attempts in the final four seconds of the shot clock. Most of these attempts are desperation heaves, isolations and simply not the shots you would really expect him to be making or want to be taking.
Sidebar: It is interesting that Hayes is second on the team with such attempts behind only Saddiq Bey (10) and third in overall field goal attempts in the last four seconds of the shot clock behind Bey and Bojan Bogdanovic.
It is fine that Hayes is not efficient in making these late shot clock 3-pointers or the ones in isolation. As long as he is making the defense pay in the situations outlined above, he is providing great value to his offense and leveraging opportunities for himself to score in other ways.
One of those “other ways” of scoring for Hayes is in the mid-range where he has shown a drastic improvement from his first couple of seasons. No, he is not DeMar DeRozan in the mid-range, but then again nobody is.
While Hayes has not shown ability to make those tough, contested 3-pointers, he absolutely is taking and making them in the mid-range. As you watch the video breakdown, make note of his ability to make these going left or right, transition or half court, snaking a ball screen, off balance or even in a crowd.
We will look at his ability (or inability) to get to the rim very soon, but it is important to note that even these mid-range attacks are drawing the help defense in a way that will allow him showcase his high-level passing reads and ability to get teammates open looks.
One shot type that would greatly benefit Hayes moving forward were he to develop it further would be the floater. Thus far, he is just 34% (via inSTAT) when utilizing the floater in his career, but an improvement here could prove to be very valuable.
At the Rim
As positive as these 13 games have been for Hayes, and as much improvement as he has shown from the 3-point line and the mid-range, his scoring around the rim still leaves much to be desired.
According to NBA.com, Hayes is just 8-of-16 (50%) in the restricted area during this stretch of games. (Note: Hayes was 61% in the restricted area last season after just shooting 43% during his 19-game rookie season.) That percentage is actually good for last on the entire team and for comparison, Jaden Ivey actually has 45 total attempts.
Hayes simply is not prioritizing getting to the rim even when the opportunities are presenting themselves, something that is highlighted in the video breakdown. When he is getting to the rim he is struggling to score by simply not putting the right angle, spin or touch on the shot.
With this said, would it be great if Killian Hayes was a complete 3-level scorer? Absolutely but it is not an imperative for him to become a quality NBA guard for the Pistons organization. If he can sustain the 3-point shooting and mid-range scoring with even a touch of improvement getting to the rim that would be sufficient in providing value to this offense and abilities to leverage that scoring into creating opportunities for his teammates.
This stretch of 13 games has easily been the best stretch of basketball we have seen from Hayes, particularly in terms of scoring the ball. While this isn’t a large enough sample size to feel 100% confident that he has “figured it out,” it is enough to regain much of the hope and confidence we all had when Troy Weaver selected him No. 7 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft and that may have been lost during his first two seasons in the Motor City.