Killian Hayes was selected seventh overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2020 NBA draft with high expectations as one of the top handful of prospects. While LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman were a virtual consensus top three in the draft, Hayes was projected to go anywhere in the range of fourth through seventh.
He fell to the Pistons, and they jumped at the opportunity to draft him. Hayes was one of the best playmakers in the draft and had the potential to be a decent defender, and if he could ever get his jump shot figured out he could be a major contributor to an NBA team.
Killian Hayes had a tumultuous rookie season with the Detroit Pistons, but in the end, he showed promise. Let’s grade his debut campaign.
Hayes got off to an abysmal start in his first seven games with the Pistons. He was an absolute zero from a scoring perspective, although he showed the playmaking he was known for and even looked like a better defender than advertised.
Still, over this opening stretch, he averaged just 4.6 points per game while shooting 27.7 percent from the floor on 6.7 attempts per game. It’s hard to be less effective than this from a shooting perspective.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks in his seventh game, he went down with a torn labrum and missed the next 41 games while recovering from this injury. He finally came back in early April in a matchup against the surging New York Knicks and his former teammate and mentor Derrick Rose, and it was an utter shellacking.
The Knicks beat the Pistons 125-81, and Hayes’ second debut of the season was even worse than his first — he scored zero points against the Knicks, but in his rookie debut, he scored seven.
Once he shook off the rust and got back at it two days later against the OKC Thunder, Hayes seemed more comfortable and prepared for the speed of the game. Over his final 18 games, he averaged 8.0 points per game and shot 38.4 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from 3-point range. It’s still a paltry rate, but you’ll always take a shooting improvement of more than 100 points.
Killian Hayes’s season highlights, and notes about his step-back jumper
Killian Hayes’s high point came in a 21-point outburst against the Chicago Bulls on May 9th. He added eight assists and seven rebounds while shooting 9-of-17 from the floor and 3-of-6 from 3-point range. That game coincided with a concerted effort to try playing him off-ball a bit more alongside fellow rookie Saben Lee, and this did indeed present him with more catch-and-shoot opportunities.
The step-back is one of the weapons Hayes has at his disposal, but it should be a tool of necessity rather than the go-to move. NBA defenders don’t buy his ability to blow by them just yet (although post-injury, he showed more ability to do so), so they aren’t playing him so tightly that he needs to default to step-back jumpers.
Unfortunately, too often it ended up being his bail-out move when defenders would force him to go to his right and away from his dominant left hand. He appeared more willing to go to his right after returning from injury, so it stands to reason that he’ll be forced into these step-backs less often next season if his progression remains linear.