France’s Killian Hayes is one of the most exhilarating guard prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft—and he could be right there for the taking for the Knicks.

It is easy to second guess yourself with draft prospects, with so many digital draft-expert charlatans finding a hole in each prospect’s game. The 2020 NBA Draft class has quite a bit of holes to point out. Not one prospect has separated themselves from the pack. Maybe the 2018 and 2019 spoiled us with too many franchise-altering talents, but those simply don’t exist in this class—at least not noticeably.

Scouting competency is as paramount in the draft process this year as it has ever been. The combination of a less top-heavy class and the abrupt ending to basketball has forced teams to either do their due diligence or take some shots in the dark. While there is no Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson available, there are a few guys that, given the proper time, could develop into franchise cornerstones.

Sometimes the best option is staring at you the entire time. Killian Hayes is not only among those who can develop into a cornerstone, he might be the best player in his class. To clarify, the best player in 2020 is one who simultaneously possesses a high ceiling with a high floor. Hayes checks both those boxes, yet many do not project the 18-year-old as a top-three or top-five pick.

Hayes was in the midst of a leap of sorts for German club ratiopharm Ulm. His stat sheets were starting the flashes he showed playing for Cholet, most notably his shooting. In 10 games for ratiopharm Ulm, Hayes shot 39.0% from three-point range on 4.1 attempts per game (41 total), a vast improvement from his arctic 19.2% during his last full season at Cholet.

Improvement to his jumper will unlock that high ceiling he possesses, but his playmaking is what will carry him in the meantime. Hayes isn’t as flamboyant as LaMelo Ball, but sees the floor in a similar capacity. He is not the physical specimen Anthony Edwards is, but you can see just as vividly a future in which he shoots at an impactful rate.

He’s not Luka or Zion, but that does not mean he is not good. The Knicks will in all likelihood stay in the middle of the lottery anyway, but if they are smart, they sit back and let Hayes fall to them. Why? Because he is the safest player in the lottery, and as I said, that equates to him being the best choice, regardless of where the Knicks pick.

Why You Want Him On Your Team


The Knicks need someone that can come in and contribute right away. While much of Hayes’ game has room for further development, his ability to run an offense will be the area he can immediately help the team.

Hayes has a decent enough handle (more on that later), his vision on the other hand is strong. In his 10 games for ratiopharm Ulm Hayes averaged 6.2 assists. In his last full season for Cholet he averaged half of that (3.1) in three times as many games, but what sticks out are the totals: Hayes dished 102 assists in 33 games for Cholet and 62 assists for ratiophram Ulm. The reason for that increase? More court time.

What Hayes lacks in explosiveness he makes up for with vision. He makes the requisite skip passes you love to see from any guard.

Hayes also does a great job using his craftiness in replacement of the lightning speed other lead guards have.

These are passes that were few and far between this season in New York. As the Knicks join the modern era and space the floor more efficiently, a guard with the ability to make these types of skip passes will be crucial.

Another area of playmaking Hayes excels in is in the pick-and-roll. For a lefty-dominant player, he still does a great job executing, putting his teammates in positions to succeed.

He can make just about any read you would want: skip passes to the corner, hitting the roll man or finding his own shot. My personal favorite is the skip pass to open shooters; Hayes’ mind seems geared towards finding the open shooter when the defense collapses.

His willingness to pass makes the defense’s job tougher as they have to make the choice to help or give up a layup at point blank range. It is also a good remedy for getting to the basket. He may have trouble getting by wings and guards, but if a big switches onto him, Hayes should have less friction getting to the tin.

Shot Creation

It is fair to say Killian Hayes will never develop the speed of a De’Aaron Fox, the range of a Trae Young, or the explosiveness of a Ja Morant. What Hayes lacks in speed and explosiveness he makes up for in craftiness.

The Manu Ginobili and James Harden comparisons are ambitious but well-grounded in tangible evidence. Like his lefty predecessors, Hayes has the capacity to navigate the floor without moving too quickly, and appears to be learning where to find his shot.

A big leap in Hayes’ shooting numbers from France to Germany, small sample size be damned, was beyond the arc. Hayes shot 39.0% from deep and was starting to flash this James Harden–like stepback jumper that has had many Killian supporters salivating.

This is straight from the Book of The Beard.

If that move is consistently in his bag of tricks, that should ease any concerns you could have about his athleticism, or lack thereof. The threat of that stepback helps create the second of hesitation Hayes needs to get downhill, which he is more than capable of doing, too.

The only fear of Hayes’ shot creation would be his over reliance on that stepback. If he starts relying on that stepback any time he can’t break his guy down, it could lead to some poor midrange attempts. But if balanced properly, Hayes can evolve into a reliable scoring threat. 

The spacing Hayes will see in the NBA is another factor to keep in mind. With more room to operate he could find soft spots in the defense for pull-ups.

And there is always room for the fun stuff like this.

Off-ball Defender

Defense is the typical weak spot for top guard prospects. Hayes does not ooze All-Defensive Team potential, but he does get after it defensively. He really excels off the ball, which is an ode to how engaged he is on that end of the floor.

Everything good about Hayes’ game comes from his strong instincts and overall awareness.

Team defense like this is what can turn the tide in a game or close the valve on an otherwise defensive breakdown. Hayes’ help defense does not always show up on the stat sheet—he had 32 steals in his final season for Cholet—but he was well on his way to a higher average for ratiopharm Ulm with 15 in 10 games.

The key to his success? Instincts.

Hayes’ off-ball defense can have a serious impact when sharing the floor with strong on-ball defenders. He has a good feel of when to jump passing lanes, and as is with his stepback jumpers on offense, if Hayes can balance the chances he takes at steals with denying the ball he can be a key cog in a strong defensive unit.

Why You Don’t Want Him On Your Team

Lefty Dominant

There are not many warts to Hayes’ game. One wart that is undeniable is his inability to finish with his right hand. Even when he drives to his right he will switch hands when attempting a layup and go up with his left.

See a common theme with those layup attempts? No matter which way he drove he went up with his left hand. This may have not held him back in Europe, but in the NBA defenders will exploit this weakness and force him right.

His lefty-dominant style also limits the best part of his game, playmaking, which bleeds into his only other noticeable weakness: turnovers.


Hayes is aware of his high level reads and sometimes that awareness can lead to seeing passes that aren’t there. He averaged a troubling 3.3 turnovers in Germany and a lot of those were a result of him trying to make a pass that wasn’t there.

His lack of a right also hurts him a healthy amount. 

Instead of whipping an easy pass over the defender, Hayes instead hits the roll man with a lefty bounce pass that ends up in a turnover. He had the correct read but was unable to make a timely pass.

Having to whip the ball across his chest gives the defense too much time to react. If these passes were being intercepted in the Bundesliga, you can use your imagination for how it would turn out in the NBA.

How Does He Fit?

Killian’s fit in New York is vivid no matter what the immediate future holds. He can be an understudy for Chris Paul if Leon Rose brings in his former client for a year or two. There is no better guard to learn from than Paul when talking about becoming a true floor general. Even if it’s a few months of mentoring, Hayes can benefit tremendously from watching the Point God on and off the floor.

He could also take the keys to the offense from day one. There will be some learning curves, especially with forcing passes, but the live reps can shorten those curves. One thing that pops from watching Hayes is he needs freedom to operate.

What next year’s roster will look like is anyone’s guess. Assuming no big name veterans join the team, Hayes will be given freedom and then some to operate. The key players Hayes has to gel with are Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson, R.J. Barrett and, yes, even Kevin Knox. 

Knox would benefit greatly from Hayes’ tendency to find the open shooter off a pick-and-roll. Hayes is an ideal fit alongside Ntilikina on the defensive end. With Hayes’ tenacity off-the-ball matched with Ntilikina’s defensive prowess, opposing backcourts would have a tough time. Mitchell Robinson and Hayes would have a fun partnership thanks to the Frenchman’s love for finding his teammates and Robinson’s penchant for throwing down oops.

The key piece in all of this is how Hayes fits with Barrett. Both players are lefty-dominant, which could make them easier to defend, especially in crucial minutes of the game. Barrett has touted that he can use his right hand, and if Hayes does join the fold, he would have to make good on that promise. 

Handedness aside, Hayes and Barrett are a nice floor fit. With Hayes assuming chief playmaking duties, Barrett can focus on refining his scoring repertoire. Hayes’ shooting opens the floor up for Barrett to drive, an area Barrett can thrive in given the space, and allow Barrett to catch and shoot more than try and create off the dribble. A lot of Barrett’s ugly attempts came off forced pull-up jumpers.

Closing Argument

More likely than not, the Knicks will select in the middle of the lottery. The lottery gods have been too cruel to brace yourself for any other scenario. Due to that, I believe whoever the team does select will tip the team’s hand as to what the plan really is.

Hayes represents a trust in the team’s rebuilding process more than any other prospect worth taking this early. He is not yet the player he can become, but with some patience, a little less than was required for fellow countryman Ntilikina, he can grow into a key cog for the core of the team. But the key is patience and whether the Knicks possess it or not.

The foundation of scoring potential, willingness to defend, and high-level playmaking are plain to see. If given a year or two to hone his skills, Hayes could end up being the best player in this draft. If all those skills still don’t pan out, he can still turn out to be one of the better players in this class. The dream scenario is Hayes becoming a bona fide starter and something more. A believable scenario is a key contributor for years to come. There is value in that type of security.

Beyond the tangible, however, is where I truly love the Hayes pick. When you watch his tape and listen to him explain his game it is glaringly obvious he is a—wait for it—dog. He is not going to come in and go through the motions, and flanking with same-minded people like Ntilikina, Barrett, and Robinson gives Rose a balanced foundation of which to build off.

But that’s only if the team is serious about this rebuild. If they want a quick turnaround a more recognizable name such as a Cole Anthony, or trading up for LaMelo Ball, will indicate that. 

Speaking as someone who is tired of the hamster wheel this franchise has been on for close to two decades, give me Hayes and give me the proper rebuild.


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