2020 NBA re-draft: Would Killian Hayes still be a first-round pick?

Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Detroit Pistons drafted Killian Hayes seventh overall in 2020, he was supposed to be an instant impact player. Yes, he was only 19 years old, but most top picks are in their late teens anyway, so that isn’t an excuse. On top of that, instead of the one year of college ball most lottery picks get, Hayes had three seasons of European pro ball under his belt.

Not to compare apples and oranges, but Luka Doncic also only had European experience and immediately lit it up in the NBA. Tony Parker was a similar story. By his second year, he was averaging 15 points and started every single game for the Spurs, who won a championship that season.

Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes is barely a first-round pick

Euro players should enter the NBA with more experience than their NCAA counterparts. They are playing against grown men, and the best player at Oakland University is not cut out for the French A league, so clearly the competition is better.

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Pistons fans love to say that Hayes will develop and turn into a real starting point guard, but he has a lot of catching up to do. Out of the 58 draftees from the 2020 draft class who have played a single minute, Hayes is just average. He is 19th in minutes played, 24th in total points, 26th in rebounds, 6th in assists, 48th in field goal percentage, 43rd in three-point percentage, and second to last in win shares with an abysmal -4.05. One could argue that the Detroit Pistons’ record would have been better if they traded their seventh pick for nothing at all.

Based solely on his defense and playmaking, I think Hayes would still be a first-round pick. He wouldn’t be anywhere near the top, though. His offense is below average, he is still turnover prone, and he plays with little to no confidence.

After an incredible European career for a teenager, Killian Hayes could have strutted into Detroit and announced that the league was his for the taking. If you ask NBA fans to list off players from the 2020 draft, they’ll tell you about Ball, Edwards, Martin Jr, Haliburton, Bey, and the emerging stars. If you ask them to list the busts, they’ll mention Wiseman, Toppin, and Jaden Smith. The rest of the league has forgotten about Killian Hayes.

Frankly, why should fans of other teams even keep him in mind? The Pistons have two other lottery picks in their backcourt with Cunningham and Ivey, and they added better players like Duren and Bagley. In terms of talent, the former seventh pick is a subpar player on one of the worst teams in basketball.

“But what about his potential?” What potential? He was supposed to be a day-one starter. Yes, injuries haven’t helped, but he only starts half the time, and even in his 11th season, Cory Joseph is a more complete player.

It’s time to wake up. The Pistons had three picks in the 2020 first round. Saddiq Bey is already very good, and Isaiah Stewart is a capable center and forward. Their first pick in that draft was a whiff, but hitting on two of three in the draft is really, really hard.

The Spurs–in my mind–are the best drafting team in the league. In 2019 they had two first-round picks. With the 29th pick, they took Keldon Johnson, a steal. At 19 they took Luka Samanic, who is out of the league.

The Danny Ainge Celtics were a good drafting team. In the 2019 first round, they took Romeo Langford, Matisse Thybulle, and Grant Williams. Only one of those was a real hit, and he has since been traded to the Sixers.

Speaking of the City of Brotherly love, the “Process” netted them seemingly hundreds of first-round picks. Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Michael Carter-Williams. Only two of those players became really good, and only one is still on the team.

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The NBA Draft is a crapshoot. It’s okay to cut your losses and admit that Killian Hayes has yet to live up to the expectations and was not worthy of a lottery pick. He’s not a horrid player. In a redraft, I’d take him in the late first round, but it should be clear he will never be in the company of his draft classmates.