Judging by fan angst, reaction and vitriol, it appears the honeymoon is over for the Detroit Pistons. An offseason that began with the excitement of the No. 1 pick and talk of a play-in game has already devolved into despair, finger-pointing and talk about 2022 lottery picks.
I get it. We have yet to see the No. 1 pick and “face of the franchise” Cade Cunningham play a single minute, Dwane Casey’s rotations and offensive philosophy already have him on the proverbial “hot seat” with fans, and through 3 games, my optimism about guys like Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo seems misguided (but it’s still early!).
Unfortunately, the only thing I seem to be right about so far is that with the trade of Sekou Doumbouya, Killian Hayes would become the most polarizing player on the Pistons’ roster. So, I figured there wasn’t a better player on the roster for a Week 1 breakdown than the point guard of the present himself.
For this breakdown, I ended up taking a closer look at five areas of Hayes’ offensive game. I promise that the video breakdowns for each are much shorter than what you are used to (4 or 5 clips) but highlight areas I see Hayes being successful or a need for improvement. Before we get into those, I would be hard pressed not to at least mention that Hayes has shown himself to very much be a plus defender through three games even though I do not include that aspect of his game for his breakdown (we’ll cover that in a future post).
After watching all three games this season and going through the breakdown, this is the part of Hayes’ offensive game I would like to see improve the most. When aggressive (we will talk about this shortly), he often finds himself “getting to his spot” but at times ends up with a tougher shot than necessary because he does/is not able to go to a secondary move to create an easier opportunity. Right now, Hayes is not really a “tough shot maker,” but he also isn’t finding ways to create easier opportunities for himself even though I believe those opportunities are there.
As I alluded to earlier, many fans will blame this on Casey and his offensive philosophy. As my good friend Ku Khahil likes to say, “if the play calls for you to pass and go stand in the corner, that’s what you are going to do,” and he definitely isn’t wrong here. SOME of Hayes’ lack of aggressiveness comes from the offense and his role within it. With that said, there are times that Hayes turns down opportunities to be aggressive. It seems like his confidence wavers throughout a game. Maybe I am asking too much from our young PG, but I want to see him be aggressive and attack at every opportunity.
I hate to lean into a tried and true basketball cliche, but basketball is simply a “make or miss” game. I highlight a few examples through the first three games where I believe Hayes makes a good move, makes the right read and decision, and the shot just doesn’t go down. At the end of the day, Hayes just has to be confident, continue to be aggressive and these attempts will start going in at a higher right.
Don’t Forget The Passing
With all of this talk about Killian looking to score, being aggressive and finishing, etc. I wanted to make sure we did not forget about how good of a passer this young kid is. At times through the first three games, I even found myself so fixated on him scoring that I did not appreciate the fact that he made the right decision on a drive followed by an incredible pass after drawing the attention of multiple defenders.
Pull Up Mid Range
Does Killian have just a little bit of three-level scoring potential?? OK, OK, … stay with me here! I am not saying by season’s end, all I am saying is IF we see the improvement at the rim, and IF the catch-and-shoot 3s continue to improve, we have seen Hayes already look comfortable shooting that mid-range pull-up. Again, I am not saying this is going to happen right now, and I know those are BIG IFs but this is just me looking at a long-term development for his offensive game.
I want to continue to preach patience with Hayes to the fan base and let this kid continue to develop, learn and grow his confidence. I believe we have seen enough in flashes and small sample sizes to at least see what it looks like over a large sample size, AT LEAST 41 games but ideally the full 82 game schedule. Might even ask Coach Casey to play him in a 4th quarter every now and then also.