Jaxson Hayes is generally projected to be drafted anywhere from eight to 14, which is right in the Atlanta Hawks range. Jeremy Woo, NBA Draft expert for Sports Illustrated projects Jaxson Hayes to be drafted at the number ten pick by the Atlanta Hawks in his latest Mock Draft. He offered this quote about the selection below:
"Atlanta should be able to address their hole at center with one of their two picks, with Hayes and Goga Bitadze both likely on the board. Hayes is a better fit for the Hawks’ transition-oriented style, and better suited to run the floor, finish plays and protect the basket next to Trae Young. While there’s going to be a lot of skill development and learning required here, Hayes is physically one of the most impressive bigs in the draft, and as he continues to add strength and fill out, he has a chance to become a valuable, starting-caliber option in a couple seasons."
Why the Atlanta Hawks Should Avoid Hayes
Lack of Productivity
I believe that Jaxson Hayes would help improve the Atlanta Hawks defense once he develops. I also agree with Mr. Woo, that the Atlanta Hawks fast paced style would fit the running and finishing abilities of Hayes in transition. However that’s where the good points end for me with Hayes, concerning his fit with Atlanta. Jaxson Hayes had a lack of production. Even his per 40 minutes averages of 17.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.8 blocks don’t look extremely tantalizing. Factor in the fact that he averaged 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes and a college game is 40 minutes, can we trust any of his stats when looking at that increment of time? If he is fouling at that rate, can it really be considered good defense?
Poor Rebounder and Foul Prone
The Atlanta Hawks are not too far removed, from dealing with the perils of having a poor rebounder at the center position in Al Horford. This was particularly hurtful in the two Eastern Conference playoff series, when Tristan Thompson dominated Atlanta on the boards. That is an issue that Atlanta does not need to revisit again. The most recent example of poor rebounding and a high foul rate translating to the NBA level, is Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson was selected number four in the 2018 NBA draft. After averaging 5.8 rebounds per game and 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes as a freshman at Michigan State, Jackson posted averages of 4.7 rebounds a game and 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes in his inaugural NBA campaign. He was often in foul trouble for the Memphis Grizzlies. This is something that can he corrected, but it will take time for Jackson, as well as Hayes. The difference is Jackson Jr. offers more value until then, by being able to shoot and space the floor.
The main reason why Jaxson Hayes is not a fit for the Atlanta Hawks system is spacing. Until he develops a jump shot, Hayes would be best served as the roll man in the pick and roll action. This would allow him to dive hard to the rim and catch lobs from, or clear space for, point guard Trae Young. Yet he does not offer the pick and pop option at this time. The problem is, John Collins fills that role and so many more for the Hawks. Collins is capable of hitting outside shots and made 34.8 percent of his threes last season, but that’s not his strong suit. Atlanta should not limit the effectiveness of a player whose stats from last season round up to 20 points and ten rebounds per game, by making him more of a spot up shooter. That is what hurt the numbers and impact of Chris Bosh, when he signed with the Miami Heat.
There is no reason to disrupt the rhythm of a player, who I am personally predicting will be an Eastern Conference All Star next season. John Collins should be the roll man in the majority of the Atlanta Hawks pick and roll sets. If Jaxson Hayes is on the floor with John Collins and Trae Young running the pick and roll, he would most likely roam the baseline. This would bring the opposing team’s best rim protector into the paint to help, while leaving only two outside shooters for spacing. This means John Collins and Jaxson Hayes could not be paired together on a regular basis, for the foreseeable future. Spacing is the reason that the Atlanta Hawks almost always had a center on the floor that could shoot last season. The rare exception was when Miles Plumlee came out of his fancy suit and actually donned a uniform.
Jaxson Hayes would be a much better fit on a team in which he can be the roll guy in pick and roll and a weak side cutting target for a post up player. This would allow him to roam the baseline, with three shooters spacing the floor. The Atlanta Hawks would be better served with Hayes on a different team as well. There will be big men available such as Bol Bol and Goga Bitadze that have a similar high upside. They also offer a better overall package of skills to develop, having a more well-rounded combination of shooting, passing, ball handling, rebounding and rim protection. Even Brandon Clarke offers more as a cutter from beyond the arch being much, much quicker.
The passing aspect of big men is often overlooked, but it is an import part of many great offenses. One can look at the three-time champion Golden State Warriors and see how well their big men pass the ball to create opportunities for their stars, led by Draymond Green. Nikola Jokic creating offense for his team and even Vlade Divac and Chris Webber formerly of the Sacramento Kings, are great examples of the damages passing big men can inflict on a defense. Jaxson Hayes had only nine total assists, compared to 29 turnovers for the entire 2018-19 season. The Hawks would be wise to either draft a center who offers a better variety of skills, or a combo forward like Sekou Doumbouya to pair with a true wing from the other draft pick. In today’s NBA of nearly positionless basketball, Atlanta needs to collect as many talented players that can dribble, pass and shoot as possible. For that reason, the Atlanta Hawks should avoid drafting Jaxson Hayes in the 2019 NBA Draft.