After putting up 75 points against the Miami Heat this past Sunday, it isn’t looking good for Charlotte’s playoff hopes. While I’m not outwardly rooting for us to lose games, it wouldn’t be devastating if we missed the playoffs. After diving into this year’s draft class, one of the guys I think the Hornets should target is Texas center, Jaxson Hayes.
Relevant Stats: 17 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.8 BPG, 1 SPB (Per 40), 12.6 TRB%, 73.9 TS%, 10.8 BLK%, 5.1 OBPM, 7.2 DBPM
Hayes is the prototypical center for today’s game. He’s a low usage guy that won’t take touches from your primary initiator. He can anchor your defense. He alters everything at the rim. Moves his feet well enough to potentially be able to switch on defense. He’s a vertical spacer on the offensive end that provides a lot of gravity. He’s been ridiculously good this year at Texas as you can see in his numbers. All of his looks are at the rim but a near 74 TS% is insane. He also has touch at the line where he’s shooting over 73%.
His defense is what intrigues me the most as it’s such a huge need for the Hornets right now. He’s the type of guy that could set the identity and you use other guys to build around him on that end. Here’s him working in open space:
This is really encouraging for a modern big. Because there’s so much pick & roll that is run in the NBA, you need a center that can defend in space. Now, these college guards aren’t Kyrie Irving or Victor Oladipo but it’s still intriguing that Hayes has flashed this ability. If he can move this well against NBA guys, he’ll be super impactful in the regular season AND the playoffs.
And here’s a compilation of him just destroying any guy who shoots near him:
The guy is a monster at the rim. He’s so long that he can block jump shots too. The good thing about a lot of his blocks is that he’s keeping the ball in play. This is resulting in transition opportunities for his team. That’s really valuable. This would be huge for a Hornets team that has no shot-blocking at all.
Hayes does have his negatives. He’s super raw and can’t do much else on offense but catch lobs and finish when he’s really close to the rim. There has been flashes of some dribbling ability but that’ll have to be developed. He has a tendency to over help sometimes to get blocks and this can put him out of position and gets him in foul trouble a lot. The rebounding rate is putrid especially for how big and athletic he is. For reference, good rebounders in the NBA are always around that 20% rate or higher. 12.6% just isn’t going to get it done.
Hayes also suffered an injury during the Big 12 tournament and is likely out for the remaining NIT games that Texas will have. Texas Head Coach Shaka Smart doesn’t think it’ll be a lingering injury but it’s still something to consider.
Hayes is very young though and doesn’t turn 19 until May. All of his deficiencies are fixable. He weighs 220 pounds now but he has the frame to put on more weight. He’ll be able to bang with bigger bodies then and hopefully, it’ll help with his rebounding. He’s a high upside guy with a lot of talent and that’s the type of player that the Hornets should be looking for. We’re in desperate need of talent and selecting Hayes would be a step in the right direction.