Height/Weight: 6’11, 220 lbs.
The University of Texas has slowly become a factory for churning out athletic, long, big men with a wide range of tools such as Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Allen, Myles Turner and Mohamed Bamba. The reign of Goliath had finally come to an end in Austin and Texas was going to be a team centered around perimeter play. It was David’s turn to rule.
Enter Jaxson Hayes.
Hayes’ allure comes from his immense amount of potential, but to fairly evaluate that we must take a look at his high school years. Coming into high school at six feet tall he steadily grew to 6 foot 7 by his junior year. Then during the summer following his junior campaign he’d grown to 6’11. He had not started a high school game until his senior year, the definition of a late bloomer.
This innate rawness, and newness to his body is the core of what makes him such a tantalizing prospect. Turning 19 one month before the draft, Hayes is one of the youngest players in the 2019 draft pool which means we can’t rule out another growth spurt. Hayes has a great deal of coordination, running the floor like a guard at nearly 7 feet tall. His frame looks like it will be able to put on an adequate amount of muscle, and his hands make a regulation basketball look like a children’s toy. His newly acquired length, allows him to be one of college basketball’s premier shot blockers despite his general lack of defensive fundamentals.
My draft philosophy is if there is a player with outlier tools/abilities such as the combination of Hayes’ coordination, hands, fluidity, length and explosiveness at a large size (6’10+) you shoot first and ask questions later. Everything Hayes has accomplished up to this point is off of his tools. More reps and a coaching staff willing to teach him defensive fundamentals could turn him into a future defensive juggernaut.
On the offensive end, Hayes is one of the top finishers in the country as he’ll undoubtedly finish the season shooting above 70% from the field. He’s showing off a nice touch around the rim which is an indicator of future shooting potential. Alongside his touch, Hayes boasts an above 70% free throw percentage which when considering his age, size, and experience level gives much optimism for his potential as a shooter. Hayes shows instincts as an offensive rebounder, combining it with his high motor and tools makes him a force on the offensive glass.
For a center prospect, Hayes has an above average handle and looks comfortable putting the ball on the floor and has shown the ability to go coast to coast in open court situations. Outside of finishing inside and rebounding Hayes does not do much on the offensive end, which is expected due to his rawness at this stage.
I am not going to be able to get over this play. I don't care that Jaxson Hayes misses this layup, this is absolutely freakish for a guy who's 6'11"/7'0" to be moving like that pic.twitter.com/3DcBEnmwQQ
— Jackson Hoy (@JHoyNBA) December 31, 2018
Jaxson’s passing is an uncertainty at this stage. Shaka Smart’s system at Texas uses centers as play finishers (around the rim finishes, rim running etc.) so they never have the ball to initiate offense or rack up assists. Jaxson’s low turnover percentage gives optimism for him at least not being a negative passer. Texas’ first game against Oklahoma State showed off Hayes’ playmaking ability because they played Texas in a way that made him make decisions. He made a lot of great passes that his teammates did not convert on.
Hayes has faced several criticisms throughout his time in Texas; foul trouble, awareness/instinct, and defensive rebounding are chief among them. Once again Shaka Smart’s system limits his big men’s rebounding numbers (all of which have grown to become above average NBA rebounders) so it is not as big of a concern to me as it is to many. However, it is still a concern and it is not solely on Shaka or Jaxson, like most things it falls somewhere in between.
Jaxson is on pace to have the lowest defensive rebounding percentage of all of the center prospects (Turner, Bamba, and Allen) that Shaka has coached, which may be a sign that he may not have the best awareness on the defensive glass. Part of his issue with the defensive glass is his ball watching tendencies. Instead of boxing his man out, pushing him back and getting the board, he often times gets caught watching the shot go up and attempting to rely on his tools to get the rebound.
Hayes’ lack of defensive IQ causes him to contest shots he has no chance of blocking which gets him out of rebounding position. Although a quick fix, Hayes brings the ball down a ton on rebounds where the guards can dig in and steal it from him. It is clear he’s still figuring out the center position. On the defensive end Hayes just makes head scratching decisions like the aforementioned hunting blocks, being way out of position, not knowing his rotations, and overall undisciplined play which leads to foul trouble. Naturally, his IQ will improve over time, however, instincts and feel is something for the most part prospects either have or they don’t and that factor may put a cap on his seemingly unlimited upside.
In a draft without a clear worthy number two pick, Jaxson Hayes can go anywhere from number two to late lottery in this year’s draft. His tools, athleticism, and fluidity will make any lottery team take a look at him. If everything goes well, Jaxson will be one of the three best players from this draft class.
As of right now, I have him falling in that third spot, right behind Zion and RJ. I’m a little hesitant to move him over RJ, but either way, he’ll be hovering in that top 5 range.