Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes has gone from bust to team leader

Detroit Pistons point guard Killian Hayes Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons point guard Killian Hayes Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons knew it would take time for Killian Hayes to get acclimated to the NBA game. In his third season it seems that time has come. After coming off the bench early in the season, Hayes was thrust into the starting lineup due to a stress fracture to second year guard  Cade Cunningham, which required surgery and forced him to miss the remainder of the season.

Hayes was off to a horrendous start, but all that changed when head coach Dwane Casey called his number. Killian has now seized the opportunity, proving to the franchise he’s ready to contribute. He took the reins, and rallied the troops who lost their leader in Cunningham, earning the respect of the coaching staff and his teammates.

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Who said there’s no room in today’s game for a pass-first, defensive-minded point guard?

Killian Hayes has increased his productivity across the board and the impact it has had on the Detroit Pistons has been noticeable for fans. We’ll take a dive into his numbers since entering the starting lineup, along with the team statistics as well.

Hayes’ season started out looking like a bust, but he is now playing like a team leader.

Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes’ offense

The difference in Killian Hayes has been like night and day since he joined the starting five. He averaged 4.5 points off the bench and is now up to 11.5 points as starter. A player doesn’t make a 7+ point jump without significant growth in their game. Killian is not an exception, as he’s worked diligently to become better offensively. His hard work has helped the Pistons increase their scoring from 108.1 to 113.4 per game since becoming the floor general.

Hayes is being more aggressive, taking 11.2 shot attempts compared to his 6.5 as a reserve, while shooting an encouraging 40.1 percent from field, much improved from his 27.4 to start the season. He’s now at 9.2 points per game for the year, looking to reach double figures by season’s end. With several double figure scoring nights already, it shouldn’t be far-fetched to think he can accomplish it.

Hayes is finding different ways to score the basketball for the Detroit Pistons. Creating out of pick and roll sets, or as a catch and shoot option, Hayes is comfortable doing both. He’s shooting 45.7 percent between 15-19 feet from the basket. These baskets come from screen and roll action, contributing to Killian’s recent scoring outbursts. If the big is in drop coverage and it’s available Killian will look to make them pay in the mid-range, an area on the floor where he’s efficient and effective when looking to score.

As a catch and shoot threat Killian has shown flashes in limited opportunities. He’s knocked down 38.9 percent from the right corner this season. That’s on a small sample size only attempting eighteen. Jaden Ivey will be given a bigger role in the latter stages of the season and his gravity will provide Killian with plenty of open looks. Opportunities will present themselves and at 35.3 percent (as a starter) he’ll be knocking them down.

A point guard’s job is to get guys involved… and not turn the ball over

Killian Hayes has always been recognized as a gifted passer of the basketball. He’s now emerging as one of the league’s best young distributors of the ball. As a starter he’s averaging 6.6 assists (doubling his 3.3 assists prior to starting) which leads the team. Doubling a statistical category isn’t easy, although Hayes has done it in convincing fashion. Hayes has recorded the third most assists in his first hundred games as a Piston behind Isiah Thomas, and Grant Hill. He’s putting his name in good company this season and the best is yet to come.

The extra responsibility hasn’t put a strain on him protecting the basketball. His turnovers haven’t changed much, averaging 1.6 as a reserve and 1.8 as a starter. This gives him a assist to turnover ratio of 3.77 in his new role. That ratio would be higher than LaMelo Ball, Trae Young, and James Harden, and place him amongst the NBA league leaders in that category. In the win over Golden State he set a new career high with thirteen assists and zero turnovers, which is the third most assists without a turnover since 1995 for the Detroit Pistons.

Some may think that the boost in these stats is coming from an increase in his usage. With Hayes that’s not necessarily the case, as he’s only increased his usage rate by two points. He’s now sitting with a 19.5 percent usage rate, but he’s responsible for 45.9 percent of the team’s assists. Since being inserted in the starting role the team assists have increased slightly from 20.7 up to 23.0 per game. The team shooting percentage also increased from 42.7 percent to a respectable 46.0 percent, showing that Hayes is more than capable of running an efficient NBA offense.

Bojan Bogdonavic has been the main recipient with 46 assisted baskets from Hayes, and assisting Bojan has helped him reach a new career high averaging 21.1 points per game. He’s only  cracked 20+ points per game one other time in his eight seasons in the league. Killian plays the game with no ego, genuinely happy to assist the basketball.

His style of play is a lost art, not many players are cut from that cloth in today’s NBA. Don’t be surprised if a few 15+ assist games are on the horizon for the young point god in training and for him to keep emerging as one of the leaders of the team.

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