Killian Hayes was originally the centerpiece of the Detroit Pistons “core four”. Consisting of Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Saben Lee. However, after a rocky first season in the association, the drafting of Cade Cunningham, and with minimal improvement being displayed. The future of Killian Hayes in a Pistons uniform is not looking as certain as once seemed.
The Good of Killian Hayes
Before we talk about some of the shortcomings of Killian’s game, I want to first focus on the positives. There’s a lot of things to like in Killian Hayes’s game. His flashy ball handling, his ability to pass in the open court, his vision of the court can often times be special. Additionally, Killian is a problem on the perimeter as a defender. He makes his matchups work for their scoring chances thanks to his quick feet and big frame for a guard.
The comparison that Troy Weaver has often given for Killian Hayes is Goran Dragic. We’ve seen the flashes of highlights that Killian has been able to give at times. It’s easy to see the reason why that comparison is exciting. From occasional passes that thread the tightest windowst, to step back threes that can look Harden-esque when executed properly. The problem, however, with Haye’s offensive game is that those glimpses we see are generally the exception, and not the rule.
If the Pistons focus on the intangibles of Killian Hayes, and daydream about what he can be, it’s easy to see why the likes of Kevin O’Connor and Troy Weaver were so high on him in last year’s draft. Despite the ceiling of Killian being so vast and unknown, the floor of Hayes’s game seems to be right in front of our eyes as well. The 2021-22 season has seen flashes of Killian scoring the ball more confidently. But, if you look at this season compared to last, it’s evident that Killian has, if anything, regressed on the offensive end.
The Bad of Killian Hayes
Killian Hayes is towards the bottom of the league in points per game, field goal percentage, and overall plus/minus. The vast majority of his offense is assisted (59.4% of his field goals are assisted). His overall offensive game can be described as timid, and lacking identity. He can make good cuts to the basket, and he can run the pick and roll well. But, when being paired on the court with Cade Cunningham, his ability to affect the game is actually hampered.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of Killian Hayes’s game is his ability to score close to the rim. Rather than absorb contact and try to get to the line or to finish through defenders, Hayes rather attempts to avoid contact. Which results in a lower quality field goal attempt. That lack of ability to score in the interior and an inconsistent three point shot, you get a player who can often times disappear in games.
Although it’s easy to blame the player solely when they are struggling. The truth is that Dwane Casey and his staff do share a responsibility in the development of Killian Hayes. Hayes is the one that can be more decisive and play more aggressively on the offensive end. Casey and his staff can adjust the rotation to put Hayes in a position to create more offense for the bench.
That role of Hayes coming off the bench is the first natural step in changes to come for a Detroit team that is struggling to find their killer lineup. Killian needs to be allowed to have the ball in his hands. Cade Cunningham needs his time to run the offense as well. Cade is an overall better playmaker and offensive player than Hayes, so his presence in the starting unit is earned. The experiment of starting Cunningham and Killian together has proven to be disappointing. Casey often needs to resort to subbing out Hayes to improve the flow of the offense in Detroit.
Pairing Killian Hayes with Josh Jackson off the bench, alongside Hamidou Diallo, Saddiq Bey/Trey Lyles and Kelly Olynyk would allow for those spreading of minutes and opportunity for the young guards. It would also give the Pistons bench more athleticism as well at the point. If Killian Hayes cannot improve his game on the offensive end, then there might need to be a conversation about Killian Hayes spending some time with the staff of the Motor City Cruise.
Killian Hayes is by no means a bad NBA player. However, if he wants to achieve his goals and last both in the Association as well as in the Motor City, he is going to need to drastically improve on the offensive end. Whether those improvements need to come from the changing of his role, or requires Killian to grow as a player and as a person to fit the NBA game. One thing is clear, the addition of Cade Cunningham makes Killian Hayes more expendable than ever. The only one that has true control of that reality, is Killian Hayes.