With the schedule and restart plan officially released, it seems — for better or worse — that NBA basketball is within touching distance. However, as is normally the case, there won’t be any sign of the Minnesota Timberwolves at the playoff party.
That means they would’ve already turned all of their attention to bettering themselves for next season, and what better way to do that than through a draft in which they (hopefully) have three selections within the top 33 picks?
For now, the basketball world continues to remain at a standstill, meaning the Wolves still technically hold the third-worst record in the league and could fall anywhere between the first and seventh pick. They also hold Brooklyn’s first round pick (for now), which is currently slotted at 16 but could fluctuate as the Nets play out the remaining eight games of the season.
Here are the odds for the top-end of the lottery.
With that in mind, there is never a good time to stop analyzing prospects. In the tenth edition of Canis Hoopus’ Draft Radar, it’s international wonderkid Killian Hayes who gets shoved under the microscope.
Team: Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)
Draft Age: 18.9
Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Weight: 187 pounds
Per Game: 33 Games (20 League, 10 EuroCup, 3 German Cup), 24.8 minutes, 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 3.2 turnovers, 48.2% FG, 29.4% 3PT, 87.6% FT
Per 36 Minutes: 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 2.1 steals, 4.7 turnovers
Advanced: 58.5 TS%, 53.5 EFG%, 22.9% Usage Rate, +1.23 PIPM
After flourishing during his formative years at french team Cholet and winning a gold medal and tournament MVP honors at the Under-16 European Championships, Killian Hayes made the move to top-flight basketball in Germany this past season. There, his star continued to rise, as the 18-year-old quickly became the most promising international prospect in this year’s draft class.
If Minnesota wants to acquire the starlet’s services, they will need to do so with their first pick. Hayes is widely projected to be off the board within the first five picks, and many smart people have him as high as number one.
He might not be a potentially transcendent passer like fellow prospect LaMelo Ball, but there is certainly a lot to be excited about when you watch Killian Hayes set the table as a lead guard. In a variety of play types, Hayes gets the most out of his teammates and influences winning basketball without having to score himself.
As is the case with all NBA point guards, the 18-year-old will be dropped into countless pick-and-rolls when he reaches the next level. That’s where he will likely impact the game the most as a facilitator. He was already promising this past season in Germany against grown men. Ratiopharm Ulm (his German team) registered 0.98 points per possession (PPP) when Hayes attempted a shot or pass out of the pick-and-roll, ranking in the 72nd percentile throughout the three leagues he featured in, per Synergy Sports.
With genuine 6-foot-5 size, Hayes can see over the defense and make reads that the majority of guards are unable to produce, which propels his pick-and-roll game. He often leads his big man toward the rim with his passes and has exceptional patience, waiting until the perfect moment before he threads the needle.
You can see in this clip how he adjusts his timing just a fraction to allow the rumbling big to get into position and seal his man off underneath the basket. That extra second creates an optimal passing lane and results in an easy dunk.
Another extremely desirable trait Hayes possesses is the way he uses his eyes and body movements to fool defenders and spring open his man. There is certainly miscommunication defensively in the following play, but part of it is due to Hayes’ body and eyes feinting to pass to the wing shooter. This causes the rotating defender to forego his duties containing the roller and allows Hayes to spoon-feed his teammate.
As if the previous talents weren’t enough to get your pick-and-roll juices flowing, Hayes is a spectacular skip passer to 3-point shooters. This is one of the most crucial skills for an elite-level facilitator, and a must for an NBA game that launches a ton of triples. It’s a pass that exhibits an innate feel for the game and awareness of how the defensive shell is shifting.
The threat of Hayes putting a dime on a platter for the roller creates panic in the opponent who is defending the corner shooter, forcing him to help on the roller and leave his man open. The defender could have time to get back to his man if the ball swings around the horn, but Hayes’ ability to cut out the middle man and rifle pinpoint passes across the court and into the shooter’s breadbasket leaves the defender in a no-win situation.
Pick-and-roll play is where Hayes makes his money as a passer, but he has no shortage of playmaking punch as a transition or isolation passer, too. He isn’t an overwhelming athlete, but he uses his aforementioned smarts to manipulate defenses with or without a screen to free him up.
He does have a bad tendency to leave the ground and pick up his dribble at the wrong times, however, which, among other fixable tendencies, leads to an above-average turnover rate. Compared to LaMelo Ball (2.9), Cole Anthony (3.6), Tyrese Maxey (2.3), Kira Lewis (3.4) and Tyrese Haliburton (2.7), the projected top-five point guards outside of Hayes, nobody came close to the 4.7 turnovers per 36 minutes that Hayes produced.
Nobody is perfect, though, especially not as an 18-year-old, so Hayes has plenty of time to fine-tune his craft. With such a strong foundation already laid, it’s a smart bet to wager that the young Frenchman will excel as a passer as his career unfurls.
- Ball Handling and Shot Creation
If there is one thing you notice outside Hayes’ shot-making ability, it’s the way he sets himself up to get open looks with the ball on a string and his footwork following along. He doesn’t always finish with the accuracy you would hope for, but there are some truly encouraging signs already on film.
As a left-hander who has rocketed up draft boards, Hayes has drawn the obvious comparisons to James Harden and Minnesota’s own D’Angelo Russell, which can be lazy and misguided if not applied in the right context. However, when you see him yo-yo dribbling, toying with defenders and pulling off perfectly executed step-back splashes, it’s hard to not to place him in that pantheon. This clutch triple seems to ring a few bells:
He can also work gracefully with side-steps and mid-range shot-creation, which gives him a more well-rounded tool kit. Competency and potential as a space-creator who has enough wiggle to find his own shot and/or create for others might be the primary aspect that pushes prospects draft stock in the right direction, and Hayes has it in spades.
With that impeccable footwork and intriguing pull-up shooting ability, it’s not hard to see why Hayes ranked in the 77th percentile (1.01 PPP) as an isolation scorer. It’s also extremely unlikely he is done growing in those areas, which should put even more wind in the sails of a Hayes apologist.
It’s important that he is able to create for himself, but it’s even more important that he has shown a consistent knack for hitting the resulting shots. Overall, he ranked in the 77th percentile on jump shots off the dribble (0.98 points PPP). Pull-shooting is a skill that often takes years for prospects to develop and is usually of very high importance to NBA point guards. Hayes being already advanced in this area is a huge plus for both him and the team that drafts him.
It’s not just east-west directions that Hayes can work in. Despite being quite limited as a burst player, he is crafty and smart as a north-south mover. Here, he changes directions with two crossovers and splits the pick-and-roll defense like the check after a bad dinner date, finishing with a rare hammer to boot.
As with any prospect, Hayes will still need to continue tightening the screws on his ball-handling. But, as was the case with his passing, he has already established a solid baseline for future success, and should only see his development spike from here.
As of now, Killian Hayes isn’t a high-volume defensive playmaker or a lockdown specialist, which seems to sink his defensive potential in the eyes of the mainstream. However, he does consistently show encouraging signs as a smart and willing defender who can operate on-ball and in a team concept and should warrant consideration as a defensively sound prospect.
There is always a lot of unwanted noise in Synergy’s defensive numbers (as there is with all defensive metrics), but they do give some semblance of an idea as to how effectively a player defends. For Hayes, he held his opponents to 0.86 points per possession for the season, which ranks in the 58th percentile compared to other German league and cup defenders. According to Wins Added, he finished the German BBL season with a +1.10 defensive player impact plus/minus, a very solid number and another notch on his defensive belt.
On the ball, Hayes’ best work came as a pick-and-roll defender, where he held his opponents to 0.58 PPP and graded out in the 87th percentile. He isn’t overly athletic or strong, but the 18-year-old is tenacious and has a clear desire to impact the game as a defender, which shines when you watch him fight through and around screens.
Of course, at such a young age and with plenty of growing to do physically and mentally, Hayes will be picked off the play his fair share, but this is what it looks like when he gets it right. He is pestering the ball-handler before he even enters the pick-and-roll, and continues to do so as the play unfolds — clawing his way through three screens with an exceptional flash of lateral quickness and awareness.
It will be super-important that Hayes is able to navigate around screens when he gets to the NBA, but it’s a big bonus that he has already spent the entirety of the season facing bone-crunchers from grown men who would metaphorically stomp an 18-year-old’s throat to get their paycheck. The NBA can chew up young guards and spit them straight back out if they’re not prepared in both mind and body, but that shouldn’t be a problem for Hayes.
While he does do well working around screens, Hayes has had some trouble defending on an island in isolation situations. Heading back to the Synergy numbers, he allowed 1.04 PPP as the primary defender in isolation situations, ranking him in the 23rd percentile. The inability to defend in isolate puts pressure on not only the rim-protectors, but the entire defensive shell who have to kick into rotation. While he has shown immense improvement in lateral quickness and overall athleticism over the past few years, he still struggles to contain quicker guards when they have a chance to get going downhill at him.
You can see here how easily Hayes’ man scoots past him with a quick first step. Hayes often gets caught trying to force his man to one side, but can’t make up for the room he has given, creating an easy driving lane for his man.
When he isn’t tasked as an on-ball stopper and has the duty of team defending, Hayes shows that he can be a truly impactful defender. The Frenchman has a keen sense of what is going on around him and how an offensive set is developing. That allows him to flash defensive playmaking potential via steals and deflections.
Head-on-a-swivel plays like this are fairly uncommon for 18-year-old guards, but not out of the ordinary for Hayes. Instead of going through the motions and simply following his man out to the perimeter, the top-five prospect reads the play, zones off his man and makes an impressive play in the passing lane.
Even when he isn’t finishing the play by forcing a turnover, Hayes makes simple but effective decisions that help solidify the team’s defensive infrastructure. Whether it’s tagging the role man or chasing opponents around the perimeter, he is a plus more often than not.
Simple plays like this go unnoticed quite easily, but they stand out to coaches and make a difference when it comes to crunch time. In a single four-second clip, you can see Hayes leaving his man in the corner, cutting off the roller and shutting down a potential layup, before sprinting back to the corner shooter and forbidding him from getting off an easy triple.
There is a real chance that Hayes gets overwhelmed too often when he has to guard the best hoopers in the known universe. Even despite his extreme progression as an athlete, he will never be a high-level mover. However, smarts, positioning and timing are often more important than raw athleticism, and Hayes possesses all of those in his toolbox.
- Left-Hand Dominance
It’s well documented and has been analyzed down to the bone, but I’d be remiss to not mention Hayes’ incompetence when it comes to passing, driving and finishing with his right hand. It may be a bit overblown in terms of how much it will impact his game on a play-to-play basis, but there is still an obvious hole there that defenses will target regularly.
At all times, you can see Hayes’ brain ticking over, wondering how he can get back to his left hand, where he can make plays comfortably. Most of the time, his shiftiness and advanced footwork help him to get back to his preferred side, but when it doesn’t, it can go poorly.
Here is a pretty innocuous turnover, but one that could easily be avoided if Hayes felt safer whipping passes with his right hand. Instead, the extra time it takes Hayes to pivot and transfer the ball into his left hand allows the lurking defender to jump the passing lane and spring into the fast break.
His left-hand dominance impacts Hayes’ efficiency as a scorer, too. He is constantly jonesing to get back to his left hand on drives, making for some funky looking layups and floaters. In general, Hayes has exceptional touch from floater range, but that doesn’t always make up for the left-hand hankering.
Here, he could have had a fairly easy layup if he was willing to transfer the ball to his right hand. Alas, the 18-year-old somehow ends up in an off-kilter, left-hand floater that never had a chance to tickle the twine.
It came on low volume, but Hayes registered just 0.8 points per possession when going to his right hand side, which ranks in the 40th percentile, per Synergy. NBA head coaches are smart people, and it won’t take them long to snuff out the deficiency and hunt it down. Hayes will need to improve in this area if he is to really maximize his potential.
- Spot-up shooting
For all his great work as a pull-up shooter and shot-creator, Hayes has serious issues as a standstill bomber. Frankly, he was atrocious in his lone season in Germany and, while it’s easy to see a path to improvement, it remains one of the biggest flaws in his game.
The numbers are reminiscent of a train wreck. The youngster ranked in the 12th percentile in catch-and-shoot scenarios, making just 22.2 percent of said jumpers. Even more concerning, he only upped that number to 24 percent when those shots fell under Synergy’s “unguarded” category. Yikes.
As far as shot mechanics go, there isn’t a whole lot wrong with Hayes’ jumper. Sure, it’s not the picture book technique that you will find extending from the world’s best shooters — it’s slightly too far away from his body and the release point is a tad low — but it’s not a major red flag. He does have a reoccurring problem with his legs when shooting off the catch, often splitting his legs and offsetting his balance.
As you can see below, this is how Hayes’ feet and legs should look on a catch-and-shoot jumper. Balanced on the way up and the downward drop mirroring that same balance. No surprise that this one was nothing but net.
He will always be a player whose strengths shine brightest when the ball is in his hands, but at his size and ability to guard multiple positions, many coaches will want Hayes to spend time off the ball as a secondary playmaker. In order for that to work, the Frenchman will need to become at least a passable spot-up shooter.
Fit With Minnesota
Everything is subjective with imagining how a prospect could slot into a roster and rotation, but there are real reasons to believe that Hayes can add depth, potential stardom and another two-way presence to the current Timberwolves roster. And while we all love Jordan McLaughlin, Hayes is undoubtedly a better prospect and has the ability to outshine J-Mac from day one. Hell, the two might even be able to share a second-unit backcourt.
There is no doubt that Hayes is a great prospect, but he is still young and needs time to adjust to life in the NBA. Throwing him in the deep end might not be the best way to approach Hayes’ development, meaning a situation like Minnesota’s could be ideal. In the Twin Cities, he would be able to play 20-30 minutes a game off the bench — finding his rhythm against reserves — and lined up behind a similar player and mentor in D’Angelo Russell (which is important). All the while, he would still get enough reps in with Karl-Anthony Towns and Malik Beasley, both of whom would be ideal partners in a spread pick-and-roll/pop system.
Of course, there is a potential redundancy with Russell, and perhaps the team would need to make a decision on one of the two if Hayes does reach his potential, but that’s a good problem to have. You can never have enough ball-handling, playmaking, shot-creating lead guards if you want to be succesful.