Killian Hayes should be able to return and play part of the remaining NBA season for the Detroit Pistons, after suffering a bad hip injury on January 4.
If you injected Pistons general manager Troy Weaver with truth serum and asked him what is Detroit’s No.1 priority for this season, his answer most likely would not be about wins or losses.
Real Answer: developing Killian Hayes.
The Prodigal Son will return: Killian Hayes coming back for Detroit Pistons
Killian Hayes was the prize of Weaver’s off-season rebuilding efforts. The 6-foot-5 Frenchman (out of Lakeland, Fla.) was selected as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
So important is Hayes’ development, that Pistons coach Dwane Casey dropped his rule that rookies must earn playing time (and maybe even then not get it, witness Atlanta game) as he declared Hayes the starting point guard in training camp.
How was he doing? About as well as a 19-year-old who last year was playing in a German professional league and had never faced the size and speed of an NBA game.
But he was learning.
After a lot of problems with turnovers in his first few games, Hayes had really cut down on throwing the ball away. By the times of his injury, Hayes had a very good, 3.5-1, assists to turnover ratio.
He had also become a pretty decent defensive player, as he learned how to avoid getting stuck on picks.
On offense? Well ….. that was still a work in progress, to put it kindly.
Hayes showed a great-looking step-back three-point shot, but it almost never went in. A three-point shot where he had time to set his feet before launch was much better.
He still was working how to effectively drive to the basket. He shot only two free throws all season as he did not draw contact from a defender.
Hayes was shooting just 27.7% from the field and 25-percent on threes when he got hurt.
However, anyone connected to the Pistons: players, coaches and fans, saw their hearts sink when Hayes went down, untouched, in a game with the Milwaukee Bucks on January 4.
It looked bad at the time, and it was:
It felt like the air had been sucked out of the Pistons season. Yes, there were plenty of other young players to grow, like Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, but Project No.1 was now going to be graded as incomplete.
Like The Terminator, Killian Hayes will be back
On January 20, some big news occurred (No, not the Presidential Inauguration I am talking big Pistons news).
A subluxation means it was only a partial dislocation of the hip. This is, of course, extremely good news, considering the circumstances.
That three doctors were consulted and they did not recommended surgery over rehab, probably means there is nothing structural in Hayes’ hip that needs correcting (a cause of many labrum tears). It also means it is not too big a tear where surgery would be needed.
The easy thing for the Pistons would have been to have Hayes get surgery to fix it, and sit out the rest of the season. No reason to rush him back, except to maybe stop Detroit from having the worst record in Pistons history.
So, to have him avoid surgery ,and be possibly cleared to play by the end of the season, means the injury was not as bad as was feared.
So when will Killian Hayes suit up again for the Detroit Pistons?
With all the postponements due to health & safety protocols, the league schedule could change, but, as of now, the NBA regular season is supposed to end on May 16.
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Assuming the clock on the eight weeks started on January 20, that would mean Hayes could be cleared to play as early as March 20.
That would, in theory, give him a chance to play for almost two months before the season ended.
More likely, he would ramp up slowly and work on his conditioning and drills for a couple weeks, before getting in an actual NBA game. With a bad hip, Hayes is probably limited on basketball skill work for a while.
Since the NBA trade deadline is March 25, and there is a decent chance point guard Derrick Rose could be traded, the timing of Hayes’ return would be perfect.
If the Pistons are out of the playoff race by then (safe bet if they keep blowing 17-point fourth quarter leads), Hayes could get lots of playing time, a chance to work on his offense, in a non-pressure environment.
If Killian Hayes could squeeze in even 15-20 games at the end of the season, that would be a big positive for the Pistons future.
It would help learn what he needs to work on the most, gain valuable experience, and personally give him a boost entering the off-season. A much better alternative to having surgery and doing nothing between January 4 and training camp next year.