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 butsuffered 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.