Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes’ late surge may mean nothing, or everything

Killian Hayes was the the Detroit Pistons’ No. 7th overall draft pick from France. He had a rough rookie season in many ways, but he did show some signs of life late in the season. This wasn’t enough to mean much for future projection, but it does have value for his confidence.

Killian Hayes‘ stat line for his rookie season was brutal:. 6.8 points, 5.3 assists (against 3.2 turnovers) and 2.7 rebounds per game, with shooting splits of 35/27/85 (for a true shooting percentage of 42.2%) was tough. The only bright spot is that his assists were at a good rate, and the turnover margin is not out of line for rookie ball-handlers.

Killian Hayes returned to the Detroit Pistons a better player

Down the stretch of the season, after he returned from a three-month absence due to a hip injury, Hayes showed more signs of life. With other ball-handlers gone, he had the ball more, and was allowed to spend more time in his comfort zone of the pick and roll.

While there were still some ugly moments, the eye test was much better. While the overall numbers were still poor, they were much improved.

In eight games in May, Hayes averaged 31.6 minutes (by far the highest of any month) with a line of 9.6 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.8 assists per game (against 4.1 turnovers) and shooting splits of 39/33/75 (for a true shooting percentage of 47%.) That line is still poor, but it is much closer to a normal ‘young point-guard learning on the fly’ poor.

That said, it should not be a point of optimism for Pistons fans any more than his struggles out of the gate should be reasons for pessimism.

The sample-size overall is so small, and the circumstances so strange, that very little can be gleaned from the numbers this season. In many ways, the eye-test suggested that not much was different at the end of the season than from the start, other than that the departure/injury of almost every other ball-handler on the team let Hayes have more space to actually play, and play the way he wanted.

Early in the season, it was obvious Hayes’ defense was better than expected and he looked most comfortable when handling the ball in transition, or out of pick and rolls. This was true at the end of the season as well, but he got to handle the ball in the pick and roll far more.

Early in the season Hayes also seemed excessively gun-shy at times and didn’t have an easy time penetrating defenses off the dribble. This was also true at the end of the season, even if a few more shots went in.

The basic takeaway is that, if you were not panicking over the terrible numbers at the start of the season, there is no reason to get overly excited about Hayes’ numbers to finish the season.

The sample-size is too small, and the eye-test had stuff staying mostly the same, other than the fact that he had the ball in his hands much later in the season with Delon Wright and Derrick Rose no longer there.

All that said, the way Hayes finished the season is still a huge positive for his development.

The way things broke for him ,meant that his rookie season was behind the 8-ball. History shows 19-year-old point guards almost always struggle, even in the best of circumstances, but he was thrust into the season with no real training camp while also coming from a foreign country, and with established veterans to whom he had to defer to.

Then he hurt his hip and lost a huge part of the season. Even after his return, when Hayes was allowed to play more naturally, the Pistons had such a lack of talent all around the floor, that very few favors were done for him.

All that is to say, that after the horrendous start to the season, it would’ve been very easy for Hayes’ confidence to be severely shaken if not shattered altogether.

He was already gun-shy at the end of the season, imagine how much worse it would be going into next season if he didn’t have a handful of games where the ball went in the basket.

The mere fact that he now has some proof-positive that he does belong in the NBA should be a key to his mindset as he heads into the offseason and prepares for next season.

Killian Hayes should show up next season confident that he belongs, which makes a world of difference.