The Charlotte Hornets could use an infusion of talent in their front court. That motivation may lead them to select Jaxson Hayes out of Texas, despite the advice they’re getting from me in a post scheduled for 2:00 today.
Height: 6’10.25” without shoes, 6’11.5” in shoes
Standing reach: 9’2.5”
Weight: 219 pounds
Vertical: 27” no step, 34.5” maximum
Strengths: Physical tools, vertical spacing, shot blocking
Jaxson Hayes is a large human being. He’s 6’11.5” in shoes and, despite his plus wingspan, he has a very strong frame that he should easily be able to add muscle mass to. The son of former NFL tight end Jonathan Hayes, Jaxson looks like he could certainly develop into a Dwight Howard-like physical specimen if he devotes himself to getting stronger.
Hayes moves very well at his size and is quick off the floor to block shots and catch lobs. He catches everything, likely thanks to his football background. His combination of size, athleticism, and coordination make him a perfect dive man in the pick and roll and drop off option for penetrating guards. He can catch and dunk alley oops from a stand still. He played within himself at Texas, rarely attempting shots outside the paint, but his 74% free throw percentage provides some hope that he could eventually add a jumper to his arsenal in time.
Defensively, Hayes is the exact type of center the modern NBA covets. He’s a prolific shot blocker, averaging 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes in his lone collegiate season. He loves to swat shots into the stands. Bill Russell probably isn’t a fan, but his teammates surely will be. His coordination and mobility allow him to be a bother to guards on the perimeter if he’s forced to switch.
Question marks: Offensive skill level, defensive discipline, physicality
Hayes’ 73.9% true shooting percentage was the highest of all draft prospects, but that’s largely due to his refusal to shoot away from the basket (nearly 90% of his shot attempts came in the paint). He gets credit for playing within himself, but NBA teams would like to see him display some semblance of perimeter skill. He’s also very limited as a passer, dishing only nine assists in 747 minutes for Texas. To truly unlock his potential as a roll man, Hayes would do well to learn basic reads on the short roll or against help defenders.
Hayes’ also has some problems with discipline on the defensive end. He averaged 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes as a freshman and will struggle to stay on the floor if he can’t get that in check. He can also fall victim to missed assignments and miscommunications on the defensive end.
Hayes needs to add strength before he can become a reliable contributor for a good team. His frame is good, so that should come in time. Hayes gets pushed around on the defensive glass. He grabbed a decent amount of offensive rebounds with his length and activity level, but he averaged a meager 5.6 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes. For a player with Hayes’ physical attributes, that’s a very bad number.
Jaxson Hayes would be a near perfect center prospect if this draft was being held pre-2010 or so. There’s still a lot of value in a rim protecting center that can wreak havoc as a roll man, but the league is shifting out to the perimeter. Whichever team takes Hayes will get a very good player, albeit one that’s a bit of a modern throwback.