The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Killian Hayes
Team: Ulm (France)
Age: 18 (turns 19 in July)
2019/20 stats: 10 G, 26.8 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 45.5 FG% (4.6/10.1), 39.0 3PT% (1.6/4.1), 90.9 FT%
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 10th, Sports Illustrated 7th, Ringer 1st, NBADraft.net 9th, Bleacher Report 10th
5 things to know:
*Hayes is tall and has the frame that suggests he could fill out into one of the biggest point guards in the NBA. When you watch him, it's easy to see some James Harden, who was a shooting guard converted into a point guard. Like Harden, Hayes uses his strength on drives and seems to have modeled his stepback jumper after the Beard. If his ball-handling and shot-creating instincts translate to the next level, he will naturally be compared to Harden. But given Harden is one of the best scorers in NBA history, Goran Dragic seems like a safer comparison and not just because Hayes is left-handed. Like Dragic, he does a really good job of penetrating the defense and finding open players on the perimeter.
*He was born in Lakeland, FL but grew up mostly in France. And because of that, he was able to turn pro at 16 years old. He already has three professional seasons under his belt, which should bode well for his ability to adjust quickly to NBA life. That, however, does not apply to the workload and amount of games. According to Basketball Reference, Hayes played a total of 52 games across three seasons. That means less wear-and-tear, but also a likely reality check at the NBA level when he has to make it through 82 games.
*Mock drafts have Hayes all over the place in the lottery and to a greater extreme than other hard-to-predict prospects in a particularly hard-to-predict draft class. We have him 10th, SI has him seventh and The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor has him as the top overall prospect.
*Hayes is one of the best passers in this draft. There are some who believe he is the best distributor, while others will argue LaMelo Ball. Both players are big guards with impeccable floor vision and passing creativity.
*Hayes' father, DeRon, starred at Penn State in the early 90s and played professionally in the ABA and overseas. Hayes' background of living in Florida and then France is due to his father's basketball career. He met Hayes' mother in France.
Fit with Wizards: This draft class is loaded with point guards and combo guards, all of which technically produce some redundancy with the Wizards' roster. They have John Wall and Bradley Beal, both of which are All-Stars signed to lucrative contracts. So, with some of the prospects, it is fair to question whether the Wizards can justify spending such a valuable draft asset given their pathway to playing time could be obstructed.
Hayes, though, should be considered one of the exceptions because it seems like he would be able to play with both Wall and Beal and maybe even at the same time in three-guard lineups. Assuming Hayes is indeed 6-foot-5 as he is listed, he would be the tallest of the three and possibly be able to serve as the three on defense. And his shooting ability and play-making versatility indicate he could be effective both on and off the ball.
Also, given the Wizards' current state, they really can't afford to pass on a potentially great player just because he isn't a perfect positional fit. They need to take the best player available, even if there could be a playing time conundrum down the road.
It is an extreme example, but one we were recently reminded of in 'The Last Dance' documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls: the Blazers didn't take Jordan in part because they already had Clyde Drexler. Drexler was a great player, but not as good as Jordan.
That's not to compare Hayes to Jordan, but also Wall and Beal aren't as good as Drexler. What if Hayes actually is the next Harden? If the Wizards feel that way, then the presence of Wall and Beal should be a secondary concern.
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2020 NBA Draft: Is prospect Killian Hayes the next James Harden? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington