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2020 NBA Draft Profile: Killian Hayes is a Guaranteed Lottery Pick

by Vaughn Dalzell | @VaughnDalzell | Featured Writer
May 3, 2020

The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is set for May 8th and the draft for June 25th, but whether those dates get pushed back remains unclear. The NBA season seems to be lost amid the coronavirus, and 2020 should mark a fresh start and lost year for all players, coaches, and fans alike. Surely, everyone was hoping this NBA season was going to end in a battle for Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks waiting in the wings, but all we can do now is move forward. That starts with the NBA draft and free agency.

The game of basketball has become so global that entering the 2019-20 season, we saw a record of 108 international players representing a record 42 countries crack NBA rosters. However, for the first time since 2013, no international players were selected in the lottery (picks 1-14) of the 2019 NBA Draft, although four were drafted in the first round.

Two international players are surely going to hear their name called within the first 14 picks this year, and one of them is French guard Killian Hayes. There have been eight international players total selected in the lottery since 2015, with Deni Avdija and Hayes next in line, and R.J. Hampton as a strong possibility. Out of the eight drafted in the lottery, I’d say Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Thon Maker have panned out (Maker) or exceed expectations, while the jury is still out for debate on the rest.

Year Lottery Pick #1 Lottery Pick #2 Lottery Pick #3
2018 Luka Doncic, 3rd
2017 Frank Ntilikina, 8th
2016 Dragan Bender, 4th Thon Maker, 10th Georgios Papagiannis, 13th
2015 Kristaps Porzingis, 4th Mario Hezonja, 5th Emmanuel Mudiay, 7th

 
If you’re not familiar with Killian Hayes, he is of the most intriguing prospects in the 2020 draft. He’s an international combo guard who stands 6-foot-5, and he’s the son of former Penn State basketball standout Deron Hayes, Killian was born in Lakeland, Florida, but grew up in France. The 18-year-old guard has played professionally since 2017 at 16 years old, and he turns 19 just a little over one month after the scheduled draft date (July 27).

Hayes’ stock is ranging from No. 23 in Raju Byfield’s Mock here at FantasyPros to as high as No. 3 on USA Today’s latest mock. I’m here to tell you that he’s a guaranteed lottery selection and a certified top-10 talent in this class. Once teams finish their homework and see his passing and playmaking ability, they’ll want to trade up to take the lefty in the top five-to-seven range.

Hayes’ Overseas Career

In 2019, Hayes upped his rank in International play during the EuroCup Tournament by averaging 12.8 points, 6.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 turnovers, 50% from the field (30/60), and an impressive 39% from deep (16/41). Hayes played in the highest basketball league in Germany during 2019, for Ratiopharm Ulm in the BBL (Basketball Bundesliga League). Before that, he played for Cholet in the LNB Pro A league in France for two years as a 16 and 17-year old.

Per 36 minutes in the BBL and EuroCup, he averaged 17.2 points and 8.3 assists while facing professional talent. He proved himself as a consistent free-throw shooter by knocking down 153-of-178 attempts (85.6%) over his three-year professional career including tournaments, and 43-of-53 (81.1%) from the charity stripe in his two years at the LNB Pro A league level.

That free-throw consistency usually transfers to league play, and it’s a reliable predictor of shooting ability. Inside the arc, Hayes is money. In the highest two tiers he’s played in, Hayes made 59% of his two-point shots. He has the C.J. McCollum mixed with Zach LaVine dribble and shot creator package that lets him pick and choose his spots on the floor.

Being left-handed has its advantages, as he’s able to create in the pick-and-roll game because of his ambidexterity — he can finish at the rim or drive and kick to assist for three. He’s explosive when he takes that lift-off step and quick to finish around the rim with either hand. His assist game is his best talent overall, making him a dangerous prospect to pass on. Hayes’ passing and all-around game were on display in the FIBA U-17 World Cup in 2018, which is starting to draw more attention from NBA scouts.

Hayes put on a clinic versus Croatia, which can be seen in the video below. He recorded 16 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, and five steals. He played seven games in that tournament and went on to play Team USA in the championship, losing 95-52.

 

Hayes finished with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, three steals, two assists, two rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers, and a -28 real plus-minus (RPM) against Team USA.

Hayes was playing tremendously over the first five games of the FIBA U-17 World Cup, posting +101 RPM, 16.6 points, 3.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.0 steals per game. He shot terrifically leading up to the semifinal, especially from inside the arc, hitting on 46.9% from the field (23/49), 25% from three (3/12), and 82.3% from the free-throw line (14/17).

In the semifinal win over Turkey, he posted 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting (52.9%), 2-of-6 from three (33.3%), five rebounds, two assists with a -7 RPM. He earned all-tournament team honors finishing with 16.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 steals, and 59.1% from inside the three-point line.

How Does His Game Translate?

Hayes has also collected MVP honors, as France won the gold medal at the U16 European Championship in 2017, and he earned MVP honors at the French U18 league and Jordan Brand Classic international game in New York. He’s played on the national level and showcased his skills for NBA scouts versus collegiate, international, and most importantly, American talent.

He needs to develop his shooting touch to extend past the 17-18 foot mark in the mid-range, but he has no problem getting an open look from that spot, especially in the pick-and-roll. His three-point shooting in 33 games was an adequate 29.4% (30/102), but it did feature success hitting step-backs and Harden-Esque moves to create open triples often. When he’s not looking for his shot, he’s calling for a pick and roll to set up the offense.

Hayes is most dangerous when going to his left with the pick-and-roller dropping underneath the basket. He can accept hard crashes off the screen and has shown steady improvement fighting through them to find the big in the paint or hit the cross-court pass to right-wing/corner-man for an open three.

He’s a top-three prospect in this class when it comes to passing, and once he’s able to fight through hard screens going to the right, he’ll be the complete package in the distribution department. His basketball IQ has grown as his competition has improved, and in his 33 games for Ratiopharm Ulm, he averaged 5.4 assists to go along with 11.6 points and 48.2% from the field (137/284).

In the interview below, you get a great idea of Hayes’ game when he breaks down his progression from France to Germany with ESPN’s NBA draft analyst Mike Schmitz. It also gives you a look at what kind of defense these international prospects face at a young age and whether his offensive game will develop quicker faster in the NBA.

His defensive efforts need work, as he seemed lackadaisical at times when the team was up large, but versus top-tier competition he played hard and didn’t take many plays off. He was a premier perimeter defender when it came to steals, recording four or more in four-of-seven games in the FIBA U-17 (2018), and 1.5 steals over 10 games in the EuroCup for Ratiopharm Ulm in 2019-20.

Ultimately, he’s best understood as a prospect who needs to develop a consistent and extended jumper, but one that’s still a top-tier player in this draft when it comes to facilitating and his pick-and-roll decision-making. He’s stellar when it comes to perimeter defense and creating steals to transition offense, and that earns him the right to be called a top-five prospect in all three areas.

His ability to score or pass at the rim has a lot of scouts reminiscing about Manu Ginobili, and since he is left-handed as well, I can certainly see the comparison. I believe his ceiling as a passer is 8-10 assists per night while his steals and full-court passes will be a trademark of his game.

He’s a far better prospect than Sekou Dounmouya (2019), Frank Ntilikita (2017), or Emmanuel Mudiay (2015) were coming out, but not on the level that Doncic was in 2018. His talent projects him as a lottery pick, and Hayes should see a few suitors that would be willing to take the chance on him.

Where Will He Get Drafted?

On my big board, Hayes is the second overall point guard behind Lamelo Ball, but not by much. I believe Hayes’ potential ceiling could be higher than Ball’s, but if Ball finds himself on the right team, such as the Atlanta Hawks or Golden State Warriors, then he should outperform and outshine every player in this class.

Hayes is certainly in the mix with top prospects James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin, Avdija, and Ball. Avdija and Hayes will face the debate over talent competition, but if you’re a team that needs a point guard, Ball and Hayes are your two best options.

After them, you’re looking at Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey, Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, and New Zealand’s R.J. Hampton which should all be lottery selections. Teams selecting in the lottery that need guards to watch for are the Bulls, Knicks, Kings, Pistons, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards.

The Wizards would be an interesting landing spot if anything happened to John Wall (another injury?) or as the Kings’ third guard to complete a trio with De’Aron Fox and Buddy Hield. Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan would be great mentors for Hayes in San Antonio, and the Knicks and Bulls have new management looking for exciting talent to build around previous talent, and Hayes fits the bill.

Keep an eye out for any NBA Lottery news as the May 9th date gets closer and the chances of anything happening get slimmer. Teams are going to draft and prepare different from recent years, much like how the NFL just handled their draft, but hopefully, we continue to witness some shocking trades that always seem to fall on NBA Draft night.

What I do know is whatever night the draft falls on, Hayes will a lottery pick, and I’m backing him to become a top-seven pick in this draft — mark my words. We will see his passing abilities and unselfishness blossom into his best attributes as he’ll keep his teammates fed for points before himself.

Vaughn Dalzell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Vaughn, check out his archive or follow him @VaughnDalzell.

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