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Suns 2020 Draft Spotlight: Killian Hayes

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A Killian Hayes-Devin Booker pairing could give Phoenix one of the most dynamic, versatile young backcourts in the entire NBA.

Ratiopharm Ulm v MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg - EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Here is part four of my draft series preview covering both fits for the Suns with the 10th pick and potential trade-back candidates. So far we’ve covered Devin Vassell, Tyrese Haliburton, and Ty-Shon Alexander, now let’s dive into Killian Hayes, one of my favorite prospects in this entire class.

It’s worth noting before diving into this that Hayes does not fit the prototypical “James-Jones type” of prospect (based off what we know thus far) in terms of him being more of a long-term guy that is on the younger side with some kinks to work out with his jumper.

I’d quickly like to point out that just because he’s viewed as a “long-term” prospect, that does not mean he isn’t ready for a significant role right away, and he is still one of the most NBA-ready 19-year-olds in this class. He possesses many qualities that Jones and this new regime covet, and would greatly benefit from learning behind basketball genius Ricky Rubio in his first two seasons.

Trade Up?

There are only three players I would give the green light for Phoenix to trade up for in this draft class: LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes and Devin Vassell. That’s not to say they should, but if the proper situation presents itself and they find a manageable price I’d go for it. In a draft where many teams are looking to trade back, if the Suns can find a reasonable deal to move up to the sixth or seventh pick and secure Hayes, they need to do it without hesitation. Now, he could wind up available at the 10th pick, but I’m not sure that it’s worth taking a risk to play the waiting game. If they insist on playing the waiting game and all of their prime targets are off the board, that’s when I jump on the “trade back” train, which looks to be a common theme for this draft where there isn’t much separation in talent across the board at a certain point.

Securing a backcourt of Killian Hayes and Devin Booker to go along with the trio of promising young wings (Bridges, Oubre, Johnson) plus Deandre Ayton manning the middle would essentially lock in a diverse and dangerous young core for the foreseeable future. They could then shift their focus entirely towards finding the right veterans and role players to strengthen their depth chart while not mortgaging the future. Hayes is a tangible on/off ball threat that plays with the type of savvy and unselfishness that would make him an excellent compliment to Devin Booker in many facets on both ends of the floor.


General Background

Position: PG

Measurables: 6’5” - 6’8” wingspan (estimate)

Age: 19 years old on draft day

Team: Ratiopharm Ulm

Role: Primary Creator/Scorer & Distributor


Draft Range

  • ESPN: 10th (Mock)
  • The Ringer: 1st (Big Board)
  • Bleacher Report: 8th (Mock)
  • Tankathon: 3rd (Big Board)
  • NBADraftNet: 4th (Mock)
  • CBS: 7th (Mock)
  • Personal Suns board: 2nd

Across the board, Hayes is one of the more divisive prospects in this class when it comes to the general public’s view of his stock versus what the NBA intel has been on him. To me, he’s a clear top-three prospect with both a high floor and high ceiling due to his versatility on both ends. The amount of progress he’s made over the past 16 months in his athletic development is remarkable and that type of improvement serves his trajectory well moving forward.


Scoring & Shooting

Hayes has all of the qualities to become an effective three-level scorer (paint, mid-range and from the perimeter) at the next level. He has an ideal frame with legit size for his position and should be able to shoot over the top of smaller defenders to make up for his lack of a lightning-quick first step. While he isn’t the fastest or most vertically explosive guard out there, he has the in-between game and change of pace mixed with excellent body control that should more than make up for his deficiencies. The passing gravity he has (which we’ll dive into) opens up some of his scoring lanes due to defenses understanding they have to respect his ability to make skip passes or find the open man if they over-help or send a double team his way. He is a terrific off-the-dribble shooter, though he has struggled on his catch-and-shoot attempts, and corrections to his mechanics will need to be made.

Per Synergy, he is graded as a Very Good off-the-dribble shooter, and ranks Poor on catch-and-shoot attempts. His shooting indicators (if you buy into that kind of thing) are promising, as he’s been a consistently elite level free throw shooter at just about every level of play throughout his professional career. He has also proven to be a dynamic finisher with a soft touch on floaters and runners at or near the rim. Even if he never figures out the catch and shoot stuff, he’ll be a plus offensively even if it limits his shooting gravity off-ball.

Shooting off the live dribble is the most valuable trait a creator can have in today’s NBA, and he has that in his bag already. The catch-and-shoot numbers and mechanics are somewhat concerning, but I’d much rather have that than the inverse for a playmaking point guard.

Here is one example of that off-the-dribble shooting. His step-back jumper has progressed quite a bit in the past calendar year, as he continues to add to his offensive arsenal.

Another area of his offensive game that should translate in a positive manner is his finishing through contact. He has plus size and with his frame it’s easy to see him adding the strength to become a physical force for a guard. When you combine that with his level of craftiness, change of pace, and attention to detail in other phases of the game to compensate for his lack of burst or raw athleticism, it makes for a very interesting blend of skills in the modern NBA. Along with that, the athletic improvements he’s made in a short amount of time gives me hope that he will only continue to grow on that front and for a player that has already had to learn how to play without being the most athletic guy, it could make him a potentially elite-level offensive player if he continues this torrid physical development trajectory.


Passing & Playmaking

Hayes makes purposeful reads on the fly before the defense can react, and that’s one of the most important qualities a point guard can have in today’s game. Passing isn’t just about reacting to what the defense does as it happens, but also about predicting what the defense will throw at you, and having countermoves in your back pocket, which Hayes does.

He is an absolute maestro out of the pick and roll as he carves defenses up off the live dribble and makes reads that are not normal for someone his age in a professional setting. He can be a bit predictable or too left-hand dominant at times, but it doesn’t truly seem to limit his passing ability. It is something that needs to be worked on as he (and his agent) have been transparent about. For the most part he can essentially make any pass in the book from any spot on the court.

The difference between his passing and someone like Tyrese Haliburton’s for example, is his ability to get into the paint and absorb/seek-out contact while probing the lane to find his open teammates. That matters. A lot. Just watch the playoffs and how smart defenses can take advantage of weaknesses and expose those areas of someone’s game. Hayes doesn’t have any true future concerns in this regard, and that’s why his live-game passing may be the best in the entire class, with only LaMelo Ball having a case against that.

Here you’ll see (as Spencer notes) that he effortlessly slings the ball with his left hand, hitting teammates in stride while using his body control and size to his advantage when looking for the seams in the defense. His greatest strength is understanding who to pass to based off what the defense throws at him as I mentioned above.


Defense

Killian’s team defense is an overwhelming plus at the moment, as he does a nice job of positioning himself and reading plays before they happen. There are the occasional common youthful mistakes where he gets overzealous and helps too far off his man and loses him for a backdoor or wide open shot off a late recovery, but for the most part he’s definitely a positive team defender. While he may not have the most impactful defensive stats, he does the little things well and projects to be a quality defender at the next level.

His size should give him some serious defensive versatility potential to switch onto some wings as he adds strength. If he can get to a point where he can guard 1-3 and plays excellent team-defense, then he’s going to be a very special two-way player. The on-ball defense is promising as well, as he puts himself in the right position and uses angles to leverage his man into the help to compensate for his lack of elite quickness. He has had moments where he’s struggled to keep up with speedy/smaller guards, but other than that there aren’t too many concerning flaws on this side of the ball with him. I wouldn’t go as far to say that he’ll be an elite defender, but he should be an overwhelmingly positive all-around defender which isn’t all that common in point guard prospects these days.

Here he displays how valuable team-defense can be, even in the most subtle of ways:


Fit in Phoenix

This is one of my favorite fits, as Hayes is one of the most complete prospects in this class and could be a legitimate long-term solution in the backcourt with Devin Booker. As mentioned in the Haliburton piece, having Ricky Rubio to mentor a point guard if they decide to go that route would be a major benefit and likely expedite their development while not throwing them into too large of a role too soon.

A guard he has shades of (not comparing outright) is former Sun Goran Dragic, as he has the same craft and body control that makes up for his lack of vertical explosiveness. There are plenty of D-Lo comparisons out there, which I can see aesthetically with his step-back and smooth lefty passes, but his defense is leaps and bounds ahead of Russell’s and I believe he’s a more effective in-game passer. I’m not a big comparisons guy, but if you combine some traits from Dragic and Russell’s games it’s not a horrible cross-comparison to make.

The last point I’d like to make here is his role in the 2nd unit next season. Hayes brings the creation they so desperately need for that unit, and he’d be a glove-like fit next to Jevon Carter on both ends. Carter can take the quicker guards and apply that menacing on-ball pressure defensively, while Hayes can guard the bigger opposing guard and provide that excellent team-defense. Offensively, Hayes would be the engine that runs the offense while Carter could play in the off-ball role that suits him best with his ability to space the floor in his catch-and-shoot role.

While this is a very minuscule area of consideration and something that should never impact why you draft someone, it just so happens that they have one of the more perfect running mates for him in the backcourt on their 2nd unit, which is worth pointing out since that’s where he’d be primarily playing next season. Along with his perfect fit next to Carter, he can also play alongside either Ricky Rubio or Devin Booker as well.

If Killian Hayes by some miracle is available when the Suns are making the 10th pick, they need to take him. Sprint to the virtual podium and ignore every other name on your draft board, because they simply do not matter. I rest my case.


If you’d like a unique, intensive breakdown of Hayes’ game then look no further than this masterpiece from “P.D. Web” on his Patreon:

Later this week, we’ll touch on Isaac Okoro out of Auburn to continue this series of potential draft picks for the Phoenix Suns.