The Killian Hayes four-year run with the Detroit Pistons has come to a close.
Hayes, the French guard drafted with the No. 7 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, came with high expectations to be a guard to build a franchise around. But, ultimately, he couldn't put things together on offense. The Pistons have since drafted two lead guards in the lottery (Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey), and unceremoniously released him on Trade Deadline day.
It should be noted that it happened after Hayes' camp reportedly told the team he wanted to be moved. Yet, it was a tad odd that it wasn't a trade. Maybe teams weren't interested in him, the asking price was too high, or Detroit didn't even bother having conversations about his trade value. Whatever the case, it ended up being that Detroit missed on a lottery pick.
As for Hayes, while many may see him as a "draft bust," he's still only 22-years-old. He is very young and has the potential to be a solid role player, at worst, and at best a starting guard on a competitive team. I don't think the superstar expectations are fair at the moment, but he could certainly prove people wrong. He's certainly shown flashes of being impactful in the past: the last 11 games of the 2021-22 season he averaged 11.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals on 45.6/27.8 shooting. And, in the last 15 games of last season, he put up 14.5 points, 7.5 assists and 1.5 steals on 40 percent shooting.
Hayes has never been a consistent shooter, never shooting at least 30 percent from 3 in a single season and only shooting 29.3 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts from beyond the arc this year.
However, with the ball in his hands, he's been better. Though his finishing at the rim has been inconsistent throughout his career, he has improved his pull-up shooting (48.1 percent frequency on 2-point pull-ups this season with 44.1 percent efficiency on those shots).
He's best known for being a REALLY good passer (doesn't have the numbers, but some of his dimes show his incredible vision) and was a favorite of Monty Williams' because of his defense. He's quick on his feet and has a really good frame for a point guard (6-foot-5 and a 6-foot-8 wingspan, which is the same as known good defenders like Josh Hart, Gary Payton II and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope).
At times it seemed like he was done a disservice in the role he was put in, as a spot-up shooter next to Cunningham, which didn't showcase his strengths. Monty's insistence on using him in that role rather than Ivey didn't help his cause either. Ultimately, it's for the best that he finds a new home where he has less pressure, he can be used better and prove to be a guard who can have a long career in the league, which he's shown flashes of being able to do.
What are those possible landing spots? Here are three teams that could use his services right now:
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Have you seen the lineups they're running lately? Even if they aren't focused on winning, why not take a swing on a guy like Hayes? They aren't going to make the playoffs, and have a playoff rotation in their injury report nowadays. That’s by design, as they played their first 25 games without Ja Morant only to lose him almost immediately, and subsequently lost Marcus Smart and Desmond Bane long-term.
That meant that their season was being thrown away in favor of giving opportunities to young players that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten them. Vince Williams Jr has ascended because of it, GG Jackson earned a four-year deal thanks to increased opportunities, and David Roddy increased his trade value before getting traded to Phoenix. They could use some help at the guard spot.
The only healthy point guards they have are two-way players Jacob Gilyard and Scotty Pippen Jr, and Hayes would immediately be seriously considered for a starting spot if he signs with them. At worst, he could put up numbers this home stretch to increase his value before the offseason, where he could be traded or signed elsewhere depending on how long he signs for. And he wouldn't have any pressure to perform on a Grizzlies team that’s, for lack of a better term, tanking at the moment.
The Grizzlies were reportedly interested in acquiring the fourth-year guard before he was released, so taking advantage of the shot at grabbing him for nothing makes sense if the rumors were true.