Killian Hayes did not get off to a good start to the 2022-23 NBA season.
The third-year point guard averaged just 2.7 points while shooting 18.2 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc through the first 10 games. Hayes played with little confidence and was benched a game in favor of veteran Cory Joseph.
While his defense was still passable and his playmaking still adequate, his inability to score on offense made him a liability on the court.
Hayes’ struggles brought calls from fans to see the 21-year-old benched. On a team trying to compete for a playoff spot, the Pistons likely would have benched Hayes. In the midst of a rebuild, however, the Pistons stuck with Hayes. The team was patient. They let him play through his struggles.
Over the past four games, that patience has been rewarded, as Killian Hayes has significantly improved his performances.
Killian Hayes has been playing with confidence over the past four games
Over the past four games, Hayes averaged 12 points, 4.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He is shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three-point range.
The 21-year-old plays with more confidence attacking the rim. Hayes averaged 8.3 drive attempts over the past four games. He is shooting 53.3 percent off of 3.8 attempts off drives per game. In the first 11 games, Hayes shot 11.1 percent off 2.5 shots from drives per game.
Hayes shot 36.4 percent off catch-and-shoot threes during his hot four-game stretch, averaging 3.3 attempts per game. That is a significant improvement over his 27.3 percent shooting off one attempt per game through the first 11 games.
Off pull-up jumpers, Hayes improved to shooting 50 percent off 5.5 attempts per game. In the first 11 games, Hayes shot 16.7 percent off 2.2 pull-up jump shots per game. While not phenomenal, Hayes has improved his pull-up three-point shooting to 25 percent the past four games, after shooting zero percent through the first 11.
Hayes is simply playing with more confidence. He is more assertive in attacking the basket, and his shot is starting to fall with more consistency. After a rough first 11 games to open the season, where Hayes’ confidence appeared lacking, it is good to see the young point guard starting to put things together.
Hayes will continue to build off this newfound confidence
Hayes has had similar jumps in production before. During the 2021-22 season, Hayes struggled in Detroit’s starting lineup. He was unplayable at times. However, after moving to the bench, Hayes began to play with more confidence. He stopped shying away from contact, and his scoring efficiency jumped as a result.
Hayes has an opportunity to make a similar jump this season as he did the previous one.
He has a long leash because the Pistons are not contending for the playoffs. They are playing to develop one of the NBA’s youngest rosters. The team will continue to practice patience with Hayes when struggles arise. If Hayes continues to build off the confident play he has displayed over the past few games, those struggles will become fewer and further between.
Opportunities will continue to rise for Hayes. There is more good news. His supporting cast on the bench is upgrading as well because Alec Burks and Marvin Bagley III have returned from injury. Those two will draw more attention from opposing defenses, alleviating some pressure off Hayes in the process.
Over the past few games, Killian Hayes has gone from a player most fans wanted out of the lineup entirely, to one of the team’s top performers. If Hayes can continue to play at this level he will give himself a real shot to be part of this team’s long-term plans. If he regresses to the mean, his future in Detroit could be short. However, Hayes still has plenty of time to prove he belongs, and his current level of pay is a positive to build off of.
(Featured Image Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)