18-year-old French phenom Killian Hayes has all the attributes you look for in a top draft pick, as he has NBA scouts gushing over his superstar potential at the point guard position.
Hayes played professionally in Germany last season for a team known as the Ratiopharm Ulm, where he averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 assists as their starting point guard.
At 6’5″, Hayes boasts tremendous length for a primary ball-handler — a huge reason why scouts rave about his court vision, passing skills, and playmaking potential.
Pure Point Guard
Hayes has the uncanny ability to read defenses and make the right plays under pressure, as his basketball IQ is special for a player of his age. He’s great out of the pick and roll — the foundation of any NBA offense — and has shown the capacity to find the weak side shooter when the defense collapses. He understands the game better than any 18-year-old in recent memory, and looks far beyond his years when operating an offense.
He can score at all three levels, both off the dribble and off the catch, and never forces bad shots. This patience is rare for such a young prospect, as it helps him play within the flow of the offense. He’s not necessarily a high-volume scorer, but his meticulous approach to the offensive side of the ball will translate well to the next level.
Teams are more inclined to draft point guards who get others involved without being worried about finding their shot early on. This is something rookie Ja Morant has done incredibly well during his first season in Memphis, as he’s always playing under control and letting the game come to him.
Hayes was phenomenal at getting to the rim last season. He is a gifted finisher, and plays exceptionally well through contact. His ability to penetrate defenses opens up the floor for his teammates, and puts him in advantageous situations when attacking the rim.
He also gets to the free-throw line at a very high clip, as he drew nearly one foul for every three field goals attempted, while shooting an impressive 86% from the charity stripe.
His efficiency at the line suggests he’s well on his way to being a great shooter at the next level, as Kevin O’Connor, a well-acclaimed NBA journalist, mentioned that free throw shooting was one of the most well-grounded predictors of shooting potential.
However, it’s Hayes’ playmaking that really separates him from other NBA draft prospects. His court vision and passing expertise compounded with his ability to score the ball makes him the complete package as a point guard.
It may take time for him to get comfortable with the NBA game, but he already has a leg-up given his professional experience overseas since many European teams run similar offenses to the NBA.
Lastly, from a defensive standpoint, Hayes has all the tools you look for in a versatile perimeter defender. At 6’5″, he’s incredibly long for his position, which will give him the ability to switch onto most guards and forwards.
He still needs time to grow into his body, but getting access to NBA training and nutrition regimens will give him every opportunity to mature from a physical standpoint.
Hayes may not contribute immediately, but will likely see limited playing time in a back-up role as he gets familiar with the NBA game. The upside is simply too good to pass up if you’re a team in need of a franchise point guard, as his feel for the game is uncanny for a kid his age.
Recent rumors point toward the Knicks as a landing spot for Hayes. Only time will tell, but with their up-and-coming core, it looks like it could be a great fit for the youngster.
His nuanced approach to the point guard position reminds me a lot of a young James Harden, as his playmaking ability makes him one of the most dynamic point guard prospects in recent memory.