Knicks Prospect Breakdown: Killian Hayes

Kris Pursiainen

[This is the sixth prospect in the 2020 draft that I've done a breakdown on. You can read about Cole Anthony here, Deni Avdija here, Tyrese Haliburton here, Anthony Edwards here, or RJ Hampton here.]

Killian Hayes is a 6'5" point guard who averaged 11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game over 30 contests for the German team Ratiopharm ULM. Hayes has a knack for creating opportunities for himself and his teammates: whether it be through his creative live-action passes to teammates or well-controlled dribble moves to find space for a shot. This ability stood out to opposing teams and scouts to an extent that has resulted in Hayes appearing near the top of most mock drafts, even if not as the first overall pick. 

Hayes is a left-handed guard who, not just because of that left-handedness, has drawn comparisons to James Harden with his ability to sink step-back or side-step jumpers from deep. Hayes made only 29.4% of his looks from behind the arc, but his already smooth form should allow him to begin converting those at a higher rate simply with time. I don't see Hayes as being an elite threat from three-point-land, but opposing teams will likely not be able to leave him open without paying the price. 

Hayes isn't the type of player to attack the paint whenever possible, but he flashed a natural touch around the rim when he did find himself taking a shot there. Even if he wasn't always able to convert initially, over the last three seasons, approximately 33% of Hayes' shot attempts over his last three seasons in Europe resulted in him taking a trip to the free-throw line: a shot he was able to convert on with almost 88% accuracy in his most recent season. Seeing as how Hayes can also make shots from the mid-range, as well as use his height to his advantage in the paint, I project him to be a true three-level scorer in the NBA with proper development. He was already able to convert looks from inside the arc at a 60% rate, sinking 3.3 out of 5.5 shots there per game. 

Hayes does have trouble using his right hand - enough that he barely does it. He is still able to make things happen on the court using only his left, but the lack of versatility there is exploited by opposing defenses when they know Hayes needs to get a tight pass off and will be using his left hand to do so. Despite the lack of ambidexterity, Hayes is able to string together quick combinations of dribble moves - and rarely has the ball taken from him when doing so. The only problem? The barrage of moves he unleashes on his defender might not always do too much for him in terms of creating the necessary space to get a shot off; however, this is another issue that I believe will be resolved with time. Even if Hayes never comes close to reaching a stage where he is truly replicating the aerobatics of James Harden, he should be able to eventually bring his right hand and general dribbling to a point that allows him to be average at worst at shot creation.

On the defensive end of the floor, Hayes demonstrates his feel for the game with his ability to make plays off of the ball. With the right teacher behind him at the NBA level, Hayes could cause legitimate problems for teams with his 6'8+ wingspan and standing reach of almost 8.5 feet. Defense is certainly one of the areas in which Hayes' potential is currently much more raw than realized, but his offensive playmaking ability shows that Hayes has a great understanding of the game of basketball at a fundamental level - and this is something that can often translate to good team defense. 

As an individual defender, Hayes isn't always able to stay in front of his man - especially if that player is faster than him. His technique should show scouts that he is certainly "teachable" on the defensive end, as Hayes already shows promise in his ability to force defenders away from screens. His height and weight should allow him to guard either the opposing team's point guard or shooting guard regardless of who he is, as well as be able to take on some of the league's shorter small forwards (even if just momentarily). 

Hayes' only other flaw on this side of the court worth noting is his unfortunate tendency to give up on contesting a shot if he believes it isn't worth his time. Although Hayes may technically be correct at times, prospects who display a motor that runs constantly and consistently throughout the game have the easiest time adjusting to the wear-and-tear brought upon players new to an NBA travel schedule.

If the Knicks were to leave the 2020 NBA Draft knowing Killian Hayes will be donning their uniform come next season, they should consider themselves lucky. They currently stand at 6th in the "race" for the best lottery odds; Hayes is generating buzz as a top three player in this class. Personally, he stands in the number two spot on my big board behind LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks. 

Whether the Knicks landed Killian because they moved up in the draft or he fell to them, they would be getting a young player who would fit perfectly, along the likes of RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, and Kevin Knox, into the team's young core. If we did draft Hayes, I would like to see him as the starter at the point guard position next year, perhaps with players such as Frank Ntilkina, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson finishing out the rest of the opening lineup. 

There would certainly be instant chemistry between the team's three ballhandlers, seeing as how Hayes could join in on Ntilikina and Barrett's conversations on the court - the ones they carry in French. This would be a youthful approach that would be refreshing for fans of the team to see: a true trust from the organization's leading minds in their young talent. This team would not win many games, but the Knicks' prospects would certainly gain plenty of experience - perhaps enough to entice some of the 2021 offseason's star free agents to come join them in the Big Apple. 

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