Written By: Spencer Fielding
Killian Hayes is one of those guys that has really fallen due to this year’s complications. In a regular year, the guard from France would have seen his stock trend upwards, but unfortunately for him, it hasn’t. Hayes is far from a household name though. He is a very interesting player for this NBA draft. In such a weird and unconventional draft, he finds himself hovering around pick 2-10. There are a ton of teams that could use his talent and a lot of teams could really benefit from a guy like Hayes. LaMelo Ball has a ton of issues and bad habits to work through and even though Hayes does as well, he seems to be more capable of fixing such habits.
Even though LaMelo has a higher ceiling overall, Hayes is a much safer pick. LaMelo is going to be a very high risk, high reward kind of player. He may have all the tools in the world to become a star in this league, but does he have the motor, or motivation to achieve such a goal? Unfortunately, he might not. One of the biggest questions about LaMelo is his overall motor and motivation to get better. At times he looks sluggish and out of sorts if you will. Hayes does a good job of being focused on both ends of the floor. A major concern with LaMelo is his defense. Even with his superior length and height, he tends to not use it to his advantage on the defensive end. He sleeps on plays and often takes breaks on the defensive end. This is a recipe for disaster for the next level. Hayes makes the right reads and stays in front of his man pretty often. He has some work to do on the defensive end, but he can really become a force on that end.
LaMelo has the ceiling to become a great player, but it is entirely up to him to realize his own potential. Hayes seems to be a safer pick, but his ceiling is still pretty high. We will get more into his strengths in a bit, we are just scratching the surface with Hayes.
LaMelo has a ton to work on at the next level. This draft, in particular, has a ton of prospects that are coming in with questionable jump shots. Anthony Edwards, Isaac Okoro, Tyrese Maxey, James Wiseman, and LaMelo Ball all struggle to shoot the ball consistently. This draft is basically a crap-shoot due to this. The jump shot is effectively the most important tool in the NBA to possess. It is hard to see anyone but bigs succeeding without a jump shot. Look at Lonzo Ball, LaMelo’s older brother. He has struggled to hit jumpers and many have been quick to label him as a bust already. Michael Carter-Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are two other lottery picks who have struggled during their entire careers without an effective jump shot. LaMelo will need to improve his jumper if he wants to become a star in this league.
One of the telling things about a player’s jump shot is their free-throw. LaMelo shot 72.3% from the line, which isn’t bad. But that’s nothing to write home about. He could very well develop his jump shot, but there is a lot riding on it. He will need to accept the fact that he needs to fix his jump shot, much like his older brother Lonzo did last offseason.
A reason LaMelo’s percentage is so low is his shot selection. It’s bad. He takes deep contested shots and can be a bit reckless when driving. He often drives into the paint with no plan and may turn over the ball, or force a difficult shot. If he wants to be able to score the ball effectively, he needs to also work on his shot selection.
The last notable weakness in LaMelo’s game is his defense. We talked about his defense a bit already. But, he is essentially just a lazy defender. Maybe it’s because he was in Australia on one of the worst teams, or maybe he intends to prove himself on defense in the NBA, but regardless, he struggled on the defensive end. He loses his man often, lets people cut back-door on him, and lazily swipes at the ball instead of staying in front. Defense is one of the most important aspects of the NBA game, and LaMelo needs to improve on that end, especially with his size and length.
Hayes does have fewer weaknesses than LaMelo. I think one of the most notable weaknesses is his lack of a fluid handle with his off-hand. Hayes is a lefty that doesn’t like to use his right. In the NBA, this could be an easy adjustment for a capable defender. Hayes often makes life difficult for himself by driving right but forcing it back into his left hand and either turns the ball over or forces up a difficult shot. This can obviously be worked on, but as a point guard, he will need to improve his handle, because then his playmaking abilities will become completely wasted.
LaMelo’s core strength is clear; it’s his playmaking. He is a wizard with the ball. His playmaking ability may actually be better than Lonzo’s. In the open court, LaMelo thrives. He can thread the needle through the defense for an easy layup, or kick it out to the perimeter for a three. LaMelo is an effective pick and roll guard because of his height and length. His ability to see over the defense and take what it gives him in the pick and roll is unmatched. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best playmaker in this draft. He is superior to any of the point guards in this draft.
Hayes may not be the playmaker that LaMelo is, but he can also pass the ball really well. He makes good swing passes across the court to the corners. He definitely makes some Manu Ginobili-esque passes. He does struggle to make jump-passes. He gets trapped in the air without a plan and will make a sloppy pass from time-to-time, but this can be worked on. He can thread the needle to exploit defensive coverages and has the height to play the pick and roll to perfection as well.
Not only is Hayes a good passer, but he has the James Harden step back in his bag as well. You can definitely tell that he has worked hard to perfect this move. He gets a lot of space off of this stepback, so it should give him a lot of room to work with for his shot. He is a decent shooter, but surprisingly, Hayes is a very effective mid-range scorer. His dribble pull-up is nice and silky. He is good at getting to his spot and hitting the shot. This should help him a lot, as long as he doesn’t fall in love with long-twos.
Another strength we touched on briefly, was Hayes’ defense. He has a high motor on both ends and one thing that will always translate into the NBA is defense. He is good on the perimeter and plays help-side defense really well. He is good while helping the big in the post to show he’s there, while also keeping an eye on his man, and watching for the kick out. Hayes is also good at watching the passing lanes, as he consistently picks off lazy passes that float by, which he then converts into points.
Killian Hayes is the best point guard in this draft. You just don’t know it because of how the draft process has been. LaMelo ball is set to become a top pick because of his name and the notoriety that he will bring the team. The fact is, LaMelo is set to struggle in the NBA. Hayes is going to succeed because of his motor and his overall drive to become better. A big knock on LaMelo is his motor and motivation. If he can tap into a different setting, where he can work harder, LaMelo could be a great player. If he can’t, LaMelo will struggle throughout his career.
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