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Jaxson Hayes capped off his lone season at Texas as the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year.  

By Emily Caron
June 20, 2019

Texas center Jaxson Hayes is reportedly headed to the New Orleans Pelicans with the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

The Pelicans acquired the pick in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks earlier on draft night.

Hayes averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 72.8% from the field for the Longhorns during his freshman campaign. He dropped a career-high 19 points to go with seven boards, two steals and a block in Texas's 69–56 loss to TCU–the team's second to last game of the season.

The 6'11", 220-pound big man started 21 games for the Longhorns during the 2018-19 season through 32 games played but suffered a left knee injury during the Longhorns' Big 12 tournament quarterfinals game against Kansas with less than two minutes remaining in the 65–57 loss.

Hayes capped off his lone season as a Longhorn as the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year honoree.

SI NBA draft expert Jeremy Woo’s breakdown: Although it’s probably important not to get too carried away with Hayes, his physical profile, advanced defensive ability and long-term upside have kept him on course to be the first center selected in June. He has a lot of maturing to do, but he’s an extremely attractive blank slate from a development standpoint. As a late-bloomer with high-caliber tools, natural instincts defending the basket and touch around the rim, Hayes has the potential to check every box for a five-man who doesn’t shoot jumpers. His offensive contributions are functionally limited – he’s purely a finisher right now — and his rebounding can be a bit inconsistent. Still, as he gets stronger and begins to play with more discipline, Hayes has a reasonable chance of becoming a starting-caliber big and plus rim protector down the line. He’s an attractive project.

Woo's Grade: A-

The Pelicans will keep this pick, per a source, and go with Hayes, imagining him as long-term defensive cover for Zion Williamson. He’s one of the most athletic big men in the draft, and while he may take a little time to come along, New Orleans continues to think long-term and swing big. Hayes makes a lot of sense here, looking at the pieces they have in place, and with center being a clear area of need. They deserve credit for flipping No. 4 into extra stuff, and landing a player with real upside at this spot.

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