We finally have legit Detroit Pistons basketball to watch, discuss, and analyze. No more workout videos or offseason scrimmages to break down. With that said, it is still preseason so we should always be careful about any overwhelming takeaways about a player or team until we get a much larger sample size. It does, however, give us a taste of what a player may have been working on in the offseason, and gives us a chance to pinpoint any improvements or areas that might still be of concern.
The vibe around Killian Hayes right now is that this will be a prove-it season for the former No. 7 overall pick. He remains one of the most polarizing players for the fan base, with some seeing him as a running mate for Cade Cunningham in the backcourt and others preferring he play basketball elsewhere. Personally, I am firmly in the middle, but I agree with those who believe this is an important year for him and the Pistons organization.
I do not usually start with the negatives during a player breakdown, but it is important to start here because it will play directly into the positives. Simply put, Hayes has to be more efficient with what he is doing on the offensive end of the floor. Through two games, he has seven turnovers. There have been some passive turnovers where he got loose with the handle and got it taken from him. There have been some off-target passes where the right read was made, but he was not on the same page as his recipient. There have also been turnovers where he was trying to be aggressive, which I can live with.
Hayes’ efficiency shooting the ball has been the biggest negative in his game. He is shooting 6-of-19 (32%) and just 1-of-8 (13%) from “behind the long line” (so happy that Mr. Blaha is healthy and returning to the broadcast this year!). It is also worth noting he is an uncharacteristic 3-of-6 from the free-throw line as well. These are mostly the kinds of shots you want Hayes to take, but he simply has to start making more shots or he is going to find his role diminished.
While his defense is his calling card, we’re examining just the offense today. The absolute overwhelming positive thus far for Hayes on the offensive end has been his continued aggressive mentality. Even after slow starts to games, turnovers, or missed shots, he has continued to be aggressively looking for his own shot and hunting opportunities to create for teammates. Attempting four 3-pointers a game may be a bit of overkill, but I love that he is staying confident in his shot. Yes, again, he HAS to start making them. This league is about production, but this mentality is an improvement from Hayes.
The spot on the floor where Hayes seems to be the most comfortable right now is in the mid-range. If you take away the 3-point attempts, he is 5-of-11 (45%) from the field, and a vast majority of those shots are pull-up jump shots or floaters in the middle of the lane. This is a spot on the floor Hayes is good at getting to and could prove to be very tough to defend if he is efficient in scoring the ball.
Finally, Hayes continues to flash the impressive creation for his teammates. He is averaging 5.5 assists through the two games, with multiple examples of him creating really good looks that were simply not finished. His creation ability is well known, but when he is being aggressive to score, forcing the defense to play him for both, he is able to showcase that skill that much more.
I have said repeatedly that I want a full 82 games of Killian Hayes in the rotation this season to get a true feel for what this young player can become. Through two preseason games, he has shown some of the biggest concerns with his game while also flashing improvements that will be vital for his continued growth and development.