When it comes to X Factors for the Detroit Pistons, there might not be one bigger than Killian Hayes. The young guard, who was Troy Weaver’s first draft pick, has faced a lot of expectations since entering the league. And just like any young player in the league, Hayes’ first two years have been full of highs and lows. Killian has been a hot topic name for Detroit ever since coming into the NBA, and the presence of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey make his development a more polarizing topic within the fanbase. However, what criticisms are true, and what are some myths?
I recently started using the service BBall Index, which is one of the most comprehensive analytics tools available for the NBA. Instinctively, the first player I wanted to do a deep dive into was Killian Hayes. And thanks to BBall Index, we are going to do exactly that in this article. The overarching theme of the analytics of Killian Hayes is that there are some areas of Killian’s game where he has a lot of potential. However, there’s also some data that could be cause for concern and show holes in Killian’s game. (Another thing to note: analytics are not the end-all be-all, but rather can be a tool to analyze deeper). The analytic data is also based on Killian Hayes’s 2021-2022 season.
The good: Killian Hayes is a great playmaker and stout defender
When watching Killian Hayes play basketball, the first thing that stands out is his passing. And when you look at Killian Hayes’s analytics chart, his playmaking is the first thing that stands out here as well. Hayes is not just a good passer, but a great one. Hayes is in the 92nd percentile in the NBA in passing efficiency, and in the 90th percentile in passing creation volume. This means Hayes is one of the better players in the league at finding open teammates, and making passes that don’t lead to turnovers. In fact, last season, Hayes averaged a staggering 20.3 potential assists per 100 passes, showcasing how many looks he tries to get for others.
Perhaps the biggest asset to Killian’s game, however, comes on the defensive end. According to analytics, Killian Hayes is in the 96th percentile in steals per 75 possessions, and is in the 91st percentile in passing lane defense. Killian Hayes is incredibly active when he is guarding on the perimeter. And in particular, is always looking for steals through passing lanes. In fact, Hayes is in the 92nd percentile for deflections. With Hayes’s ability to pass and defend on a high level, there’s a lot to like in Killian’s game. If he can grow in other areas of his game, he has the capability to play in the NBA for a long time.
The bad: Killian is not a scoring threat
Killian Hayes currently has one major issue in his game: his ability to score the basketball. Killian Hayes has the ball in his hands a lot. Specifically, Hayes is in the 82nd percentile for touches per game. Yet when it comes to the amount of possessions he scores on, he is in the 30th percentile, 18 percent below league average. One category that stands out in particular is Killian’s perimiter shooting. BBall Index has Killian Hayes’s 3 Point Shot Making rating in the 3rd percintile of NBA Players. This statistic is measured based on the player’s ability to make a three point shot given the degree of difficulty. To put it simply, that’s bad. Really, really bad.
Some areas that Hayes can immediately improve his jumpshooting, is by improving his shot selection. According to analytics, Killian only took 13.2 percent of his threes this past season open. This puts him in the 18th percentile in the league. Part of that is due to the Pistons abysmal spacing this past season on the perimiter. But if Killian Hayes is going to be selective with his scoring, those looks need to be high quality. Because if they’re not, it gives Hayes a much more limited chance to get any rhythm going on the offensive end.
Killian Hayes is still learning to play in the paint
With Killian Hayes getting used to the physicality of the NBA, it’s not a surprise his paint game is a work in progress. Hayes, who recently turned 21, has a different physique now than when he came into the league. And because of it, he’s needing to learn how he can impact the game differently with a bigger frame. In his 2021-22 season, Hayes passed out on over 50% of his drives, and only took two attempts at the rim per 75 possessions. If that seems low, that’s because it is. Specifically, that number of attempts is in the 23rd percentile. And what’s even more troubling is that according to BBall Index’s Rim Shot Quality metric, his quality of attempts at the rim is in the 6th percentile. Essentially, Killian doesn’t take many shots at the rim. More likely than not, he’s going to pass out on his drives. But the shots Hayes is taking at the rim, are low quality.
One way Killian Hayes can quickly get more attempts at the basket, is by making more cuts to the rim. Hayes attempted 0.1 cuts per game this past season. A tenth of a cut per game. It can at times appear that Killian seems like he doesn’t know what to do when the ball isn’t in his hands. And he can even seem dormant off the ball. To summarize his off-ball movement statistics, that seems to be confirmed. Learning how to play off the ball is another issue that a lot of young players have. But it is an apsect of Killian’s game that can improve all areas of his scoring. In addition, with Jaden Ivey’s presence on the roster, Hayes will not have the same amount of touches. Learning how to play without the ball in his hands will be out of necessity.
Analytics aren’t end all be all, but do give window on how Hayes can grow
The analytics movement in the game of basketball is one that can bring a lot of contention. While analytics are by no means going anywhere, they also aren’t the only form of evaluation needed. The argument between eye test and analytics always will lie somewhere in the middle. And when looking at the overall profile of Hayes’s game analytically, it tells similar tales to the eye test. If anything, analytics just gives the context of where Hayes stands to the rest of hie peers. However, just because there are areas of Killian’s profile that rank low doesn’t mean he is doomed to be that way the rest of his career. It doesn’t even guarantee it will be the same way this season.
Killian Hayes is still a talented young prospect with a lot of room to grow. He has a lot of talent at a young age, and is an incredibly gifted playmaker and defender. However, Detroit isn’t going to be in the youth movement forever. And if Killian doesn’t show growth on the offensive end, it could be harder for him to stay on the court. Especially if Ivey proves to be servicable on the defensive end. The good news is that there are clear areas that Hayes can improve his game, and he is not the type of player that shies away from the gym. If Killian Hayes can translate his aggression on the defensive end to his offensive game, he can be a force to be reckoned with.