2020 NBA Draft Watch: Killian Hayes is a viable option for the San Antonio Spurs

ULM, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24: Killian Hayes of Ratiopharm Ulm controls the ball during the EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) match between Ratiopharm Ulm and Hamburg Towers at ratiopharm Arena on November 24, 2019 in Ulm, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
ULM, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24: Killian Hayes of Ratiopharm Ulm controls the ball during the EasyCredit Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) match between Ratiopharm Ulm and Hamburg Towers at ratiopharm Arena on November 24, 2019 in Ulm, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

The San Antonio Spurs may have more pressing needs to address the 2020 NBA Draft, but if Killian Hayes is available, he might be too good to pass up on.

Although there is still no update on when the NBA season will resume and in what shape or form the remainder of the schedule will look like, the San Antonio Spurs can use this hiatus as an opportunity to bolster their scouting efforts in preparation for the 2020 NBA Draft. This years’ draft will be unique for a variety of reasons. The cancellation of the NCAA tournament and the uncertainty surrounding pre-draft workouts will make an already difficult task harder for many front offices across the league.

While some might point to Anthony Edwards or Obi Toppin, there was no preeminent talent that stuck out above the rest in college basketball this year. Much of the buzz has stemmed from abroad, whether that be US-born players like LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton who both opted to play in Australia or Deni Avdija, the Israeli swingman who has skyrocketed up draft boards.

Another player who has been garnering appeal as of late is the18-year-old French point guard Killian Hayes.

NBA Draft
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NBA Draft prospect Killian Hayes announces that he’s joining the draft pool, as per his current club.

Hayes was born in Florida, but his father played professionally overseas, so Killian grew up in France. The young guard has been on the NBA radar from an early age, piecing together an impressive resume that includes MVP honors for the French U18 league and Jordan Brand Classic international game.

Hayes turned pro at the age of 16, spending two seasons with Cholet before switching to Ratiopharm Ulm in 2019. With three years of pro ball under his belt, Hayes decided he was ready to test his skills in the NBA, officially declaring for the draft this past week.

Yes, the Spurs have several needs they should be looking to fill during the draft, such as the addition of a big or wing, but the 6’5″ French playmaker has developed into a tantalizing prospect that has the scouts talking. Through 10 games with Ulm, the lefty point guard averaged 12.6 points and 6.2 assists per game in about 26 minutes, all while shooting 45 percent from the floor, 39 percent from three-point range and 91 percent from the free-throw line.

Hayes started the season a bit rocky, but began to hit his stride on both sides of the floor once the season progressed. Although he’s only 18 years old, Hayes already possesses a strong feel for the game and his basketball IQ will win him a lot of points with interested teams.

Hayes says he currently watches a lot of film on Milos Teodosic, former Clippers guard who also plays in the EuroCup, but grew up studying Dwyane Wade’s game and then branched out to other lefties like D’Angelo Russell and San Antonio’s very own, Manu Ginobili.

Offensively, Hayes knows how to operate in the pick-and-roll efficiently. Earlier in the season, opposing teams liked blitzing him with double-teams, forcing him to his right and causing unforced turnovers. With time, Hayes became more adept at reading pressure, reacting to what the defense gives him and threading passes to open teammates.

Hayes has also shown improvement with his shooting stroke, gaining more and more confidence with his pull-up and mid-range game. When all things are clicking, Hayes has demonstrated that he can score at all three levels and teams will hope that Hayes can provide that punch on a nightly basis as he and his game continue to mature.

On the defensive end, Hayes has shown flashes but isn’t always locked in, suffering from lapses of ball-watching or struggling to fight through ball screens. However, many of these woes can simply be attributed to Hayes being 18 years old and playing with grown men. Hayes has a 6’5″ frame with long arms and once he can start to use that to his advantage consistently then he has the potential to develop into a strong defender who can guard up to three positions.

Youthfulness is the only glaring knock on Hayes’ game. Despite his size, defenses can pester and bother him into committing turnovers in the open court when he’s not being strong with the ball. A natural lefty, Hayes can struggle driving and initiating from the right side, but increased reps will allow him to become a more confident and versatile offensive threat.

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As mentioned earlier, the Spurs could be in the market for some other positional players in this draft. Although San Antonio’s guard rotation has been a bit of a mess this season, Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli are both free agents after this season and there seems to be less and less optimism that DeMar DeRozan will be with the team next year.

As such, the potential departure of those players opens up more minutes across the board for Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and perhaps Hayes to make an impact. Hayes already has experience playing on and off the ball with Ulm, so I wouldn’t anticipate him struggling to work alongside Dejounte Murray or any of the other guards on the roster.

Barring a late-season turnaround from the Spurs, San Antonio is positioning to have one of their highest picks in who knows how long. Most draft experts have Hayes pegged in the 8-10 range, with a popular pick being at No. 10 to the Phoenix Suns.

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However, several mock drafts have the Spurs getting the 11th pick, meaning Hayes shouldn’t be too far out of reach come draft night depending on how things shake out.