Detroit Pistons: What Killian Hayes needs to do in his “contract year”

Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Sacramento Kings defends Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Sacramento Kings defends Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Killian Hayes will be entering his 3rd season for the Detroit Pistons, which is more-or-less a contract year with just a team option remaining on his contract.

That option would pay him $7.4 million, which is not chump change, as that money will get you a solid NBA rotation player. Hayes has been that at times, but has also been inconsistent and hasn’t shown growth in certain areas.

I wrote yesterday that his career path could follow Sekou Doumbouya’s if he isn’t careful, which his fans didn’t appreciate and I understand.

It may have been a harsh comparison considering Doumbouya isn’t even in the NBA, and it’s hard to imagine Killian completely out of the league. I also agree (which I said several times) that Hayes has shown more than Sekou, deserves more time and that it’s too early to give up on him.

With all of those disclaimers out of the way, the comparison holds, as Killian’s job isn’t going to be as safe once the Detroit Pistons are trying to win games and the NBA is a brutal, simple business that will churn out players who aren’t producing. You can’t really on potential forever and there are a lot of hungry players gunning for jobs.

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I do not think Killian Hayes has to turn into an All-Star overnight by any means, but he has to make some progress this season in a few areas.

Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes has to play more games

Hayes has played in just 92 games in his first two seasons after suffering a serious hip injury in year one and several lingering injuries in his second year that held him to just 66 appearances.

I do believe this is the thing that has held him back the most, as Killian seems to get hurt every time he starts to play well, which has killed his momentum. He also had a lingering thumb injury last season that undoubtedly affected his shot.

Injuries are part of the game, but Hayes has to stay healthy this season and play in enough games for the Pistons to really know what they have. We’ve seen it in bursts, but he needs to put together a consistent season where he plays closer to 75 games.

Killian Hayes needs to be an elite defender

Most of what I heard from angry Killian fans yesterday revolved around his “elite” defense, and while he is very good in that area, he needs to be a lockdown, All-Defense type if his offensive contributions are going to be this limited.

Basically, he needs to become Marcus Smart, a guy who also has offensive limitations, but who makes up for it by defending four positions well. I think this is a distinct possibility for Hayes and really should be his focus.

I am not one of the fans who thinks he needs to become a volume shooter or “be more aggressive” on offense to make it in the NBA. He’s still only 20, so he needs to lean into what he already does well, and make that his hallmark.

He needs to consistently take on the other team’s best player, to be the guy the Detroit Pistons rely on defensively and can’t keep off the floor because of his defense. I think he can get there, and hope the coaching staff has him focus on this more than 3-point shooting.

I hate to say it, but the Pistons can find cheaper players who do nothing but play defense, so that defense needs to be very good.

Killian Hayes needs to be able to do something on offense

As I said earlier, I don’t think Hayes needs to become a knockdown 3-point shooter or a guy who takes 20 shots per game off the bounce, but he has to be able to do something.

Right now, Killian Hayes is not much of a threat with the ball in his hands and defenses know it, which takes away from his plus passing ability. The more floaters and runners he can hit, the more defenses will have to tighten up on him, which will open up more passing lanes for him to do his thing.

Killian could have a really nice pick-and-roll game with Jalen Duren, but it won’t work if defenses aren’t scared he is going to shoot, as they will just stick with Duren on the roll and leave Killian alone.

I don’t know if Hayes will ever be a “shoot first” point guard and he probably shouldn’t be, but you have to be a threat on offense in the NBA, as defenses are just too good at switching, rotating and doubling off non-scorers.

It’s a big year for Killian Hayes, who doesn’t have to be an All-NBA guard but needs to take the next steps in his development.

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