Why Detroit Pistons should select Killian Hayes in 2020 NBA draft

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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In the Free Press’ NBA mock draft 3.0, Detroit Pistons beat writer Omari Sankofa II selected ratiopharm Ulm point guard Killian Hayes for the Pistons with the seventh overall pick. Sankofa explains his logic behind the pick:

Pre-NBA draft Zoom calls with the media haven’t been a major factor in how teams evaluate prospects leading up to the draft. 

But if Killian Hayes’ media call Thursday was an accurate window into how he’s presenting himself in interviews with teams, it’s safe to assume he’s passing those interviews with flying colors. 

When asked what he wanted to achieve in the NBA beyond winning a championship, the French point guard had an answer ready. 

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“Really, inspiring the next generation in France,” he said. “I know the sport is getting bigger in France, but it’s not as big as soccer. So just trying to inspire a lot of young French kids that they can make it to the NBA, that their dream can become possible. And as for my career, just trying to be an All-Star, trying to be the best teammate and player I can be. I want to be remembered as somebody who wants to win.” 

He couldn’t have drafted a better answer. He also rose to the occasion while describing his priorities for next season. 

“First of all, it’s just coming into the first practice, show everybody what you’re about, that they can trust you,” he said. “And that we all have a common goal, which is winning. And coming in, I’m going to impact whatever the coach wants me to do … which is play hard, defense, create, it could be whatever. I will do it. Just try to fit in and gain everybody’s trust.” 

Despite being one of the youngest players in this year’s draft, Hayes, at 19 years and 3 months, displayed a maturity beyond his years. It reflects his unique path to the NBA. He was born in Lakeland, Florida, but raised in Cholet, France. His dad, DeRon, is a former Penn State standout who began playing for LNB Pro A, a French pro league, when Hayes was 1-year old.  

He made his professional debut with the Cholet senior team at 16 in 2017. He was raised in the game of basketball and is accustomed to playing against older competition. He has been preparing for the NBA longer than many of his peers. So when he was asked if he feels any pressure being a French player projected to go in the lottery, he had another good response. 

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“Not at all,” Hayes said. “Where you get drafted is most important, the number don’t really matter. It’s all about the situation you get drafted in.” 

For Hayes, the Pistons could be his best-case scenario when considering both draft position and team fit. And his demeanor, along with his upside, are all reasons why I believe he should be Detroit’s draft pick at No. 7 overall

Hayes, whose draft range appears to be somewhere between the fourth and 12th picks, is a 6-foot-5 point guard with a 6-8 wingspan. He reads the floor well, finishes at the rim at a high level and has advanced footwork for his age. He said former Spurs star Manu Ginobili is the international player who has influenced the game the most, and it shows when you watch his film. 

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Hayes isn’t an elite athlete, but knows how to use his feet to create space. He’s shifty when driving to the rim and doesn’t shy away from adding flair to his 3-point attempts. Both stepback and side-step 3’s are in his arsenal — two space-creating maneuvers crucial in today’s NBA. He didn’t make them at a high clip last season, but his free-throw percentage and touch indicate he’ll improve. 

He competes defensively and could defend three positions in the NBA with his size and length. Add it up and you get a point guard prospect who would be the Pistons’ first high-level starter at the position since Chauncey Billups was traded 12 years ago

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The Pistons haven’t used a first-round pick on a point guard since Brandon Knight in 2011. They’re clearly interested in changing that this year, as they’ve worked out at least five point guards leading up to the draft. 

One of his trainers is former Pistons point guard Will Bynum, who had high praise for Hayes’ upside and work ethic

“He’s a great kid, a basketball kid,” Bynum said. “He’s like, as far as a basketball kid, I would reference that to Kobe Bryant, who grew up in Italy and is a pure basketball kid because his dad was playing basketball at the highest level. So the way that he grew up to see it is a little bit different. So when I compare, mentally, the basketball side of growing up, that’s the foundation that he comes from, a similar foundation of where Kobe come from. 

“His mindset is different because he wants to be the best at it, and this is the only thing he sees. Some kids, they have a little bit more that they see because of the environments that they grew up in. So it’s a different dynamic with those types of kids. With a kid like that, I can see the development and the process of getting better a little more easier because of his foundation.” 

It’s apparent Hayes would like to play for the Pistons. He’s friends with fellow countryman Sekou Doumbouya and has said on multiple occasions that teaming up with Doumbouya would make his transition to the NBA easier

“Sekou is one of my guys,” Hayes said. “I’ve known him for a long time, now. For me, it would be great just having someone you know, so I could integrate myself a little quicker. Just having him around, showing me around would definitely help.” 

The Pistons are reportedly interested in using their first-round pick on Florida State’s Patrick Williams, who checks many of the boxes general manager Troy Weaver wants in a prospect. Williams is an athletic 6-8 forward who displayed upside as a scorer and versatile defender last season. 

He’s raw offensively, didn’t shoot well from behind the arc and turned the ball over twice as much as he logged assists. But athletic forwards who can get their own shot and compete on defense are the NBA’s most valuable players. If the Pistons draft Williams, they’ll have a great prospect to work with. 

But if Hayes is available at No. 7, there’s a long list of reasons to believe he’s the best option for the Pistons.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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