Back in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons were looking for a point guard and there were plenty to choose from.
They ended up taking Killian Hayes with the 7th pick, a choice that has been heavily scrutinized given his lack of improvement and the fact that Tyrese Haliburton (who was taken 12th) has already blossomed into a star.
Hayes is still just 21-years-old, so it’s too early to declare him a bust, but he is running out of time to prove himself, as next year will be the final year of his contract, so he’s under some amount of pressure to perform and show that he can be the guy the Pistons thought he was when they drafted him.
Hayes has gotten increased opportunities this season with Cade Cunningham out, but has been inconsistent, starting slowly, then putting together the best stretch of his career only to fall back into a slump prior to the All-Star break.
The Detroit Pistons recently added another point guard from the 2020 Draft class when they snatched RJ Hampton off waivers. Hampton is another guy who hasn’t lived up to expectations, though he was taken 24th, so they weren’t as high as the bar set for Hayes.
Hampton could make his debut tonight against Orlando, but what does his addition mean for Killian Hayes?
Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes and RJ Hampton
In the immediate future, Hampton’s addition shouldn’t affect Hayes at all, as Hampton may or may not even be in the rotation, and if he is, he’s likely to take minutes from guys like Cory Joseph and Hamidou Diallo, not Hayes.
The Detroit Pistons have also exercised their team option on Hayes for next season, so he is part of their future plans, and there is no such guarantee for Hampton, who would likely have to play very well in the final stretch of games for the Pistons to offer him a new contract.
But let’s not pretend like Killian Hayes’ spot is set in stone, as he has done little to be considered part of the core. If Hampton were to really play well in a backup role, the Pistons could decide to try and trade Hayes this offseason, and there would be some prudent reasons to do so, mostly contractual, as Hayes is owed $7.4 million next season and Hampton could likely be had on a minimum deal.
Hampton is also more athletic and has shown he can play as he averaged 11.2 points, five rebounds and 2.8 assists when he first came to Orlando before being buried on the depth chart.
Hampton is less of a true point guard than Hayes, so Killian definitely has the advantage as a facilitator, especially if he is surrounded by shooters and lob threats. It’s Killian’s job to lose, but the way he has played, I wouldn’t count it out, especially since Hampton will be hugely motivated to play well in these last games to showcase himself for a new contract.
I can guarantee you this: Hampton is a confident player who thinks he is better than Hayes and will be eager to prove it, so it will be interesting to see if he gets the chance.
It’s likely Hampton plays sparingly and that his addition doesn’t affect Hayes, but if he plays well, his future contract situation might make him a bargain.