A lot of Piston fandom has soured on Killian Hayes after the 7th overall pick has not lived up to fan expectation. Many also believe that the last two drafts, two point guard type players in Ivey and Cunningham, either make Hayes expendable or shows a lack of confidence from management. Many fans are understandably apprehensive about a first round pick averaging only 6.85 ppg over two years despite being given lengthy run early in his career. The fact that he came from a European league does not help, as fans had never seen him play before he suited up for the Pistons. This has all come together to calls to trade or to forgo an extension. Killian might be the biggest conundrum on the roster, which is saying something based on Troy Weaver’s penchant for taking on too many bigs and reclamation projects.
Despite the concern, Hayes has a clear cut use this year that can maximize his strengths. First though, fans have to understand what Hayes is, a good defender and passer, and what he is not, a scorer. Hayes was not a big scorer in Europe, averaging under 12 points his last season. Asking Hayes to be a big scorer is like asking Shaq to be Steph Curry- it ain’t possible. What is possible, though, is to put Hayes with a second group with Isaiah Livers, Kelly Olynyk, Alec Burks, and Jalen Duren/Nerlens Noel at the dunker spot. Hayes needs to find himself in a simplified position- either go in for a layup, pass to the dunker, or kick for a three. Having three shooters in Livers, Olynyk, and Burks will prevent sagging; therefore, it will be a simple decision: if a defender sags then pass or if they don’t shoot a layup. Having a vertical threat in the dunker spot, as opposed to last year, will also help take pressure off of Hayes; teams will have to stay closer to the dunker or risk an easy lob pass/offensive rebound dunk.
Whether or not the Pistons should extend Hayes or should let Hayes walk will be decided at the end of the year, but Dwayne Casey has to put Hayes in the right situation. Asking simple straight line drives into a binary decision, layup or pass to a teammate that is open off of help, and to defend the other team’s ball handler will give him a chance to thrive, and thrive he can.