French team just finished U17 FIBA World Championship in Argentina as a runner up. Despite having in the roster three arguably first round talents: Killian Hayes, Theo Maledon & Malcolm Cazalon and taking group stage by storm (average winning margin: 33.67 pts), European team had absolutely no chance to compete with USA in the final. Later in this piece we will analyze performance of our #1 in Eurospects 2001 Generation Ranking.
Killian Hayes already has a worldwide recognition as a top prospect. However his performances vs elite non European competition can be considered worrying for a while now. It started at NBA All-Star weekend where he took part in Basketball Without Borders Global Camp. Poor showing in Los Angeles could be explained by minor injury as in fact he didn’t even participate in all the scrimmages. Nextly we witnessed his very average display in Treviso with international selection team which took on NBA Academies. Killian’s performance was really shaky and in one game he even went scoreless during decent amount of minutes.
There is no greater evaluation setting for NBA prospect than facing the best peers from United States. Second time in just few week stretch Killian didn’t get any bucket as he finished with 0 points in pre World Cup game vs USA. He had a chance to bounce back in the final game of U17s. How did it go? He tried but fell short to put remarkable numbers, not to mention providing competitive game.
Here are my observations from this game:
– First play of the game shows the difference. Hayes stole the ball, tried to go coast to coast, lane seemed to be open but somehow he couldn’t even attempt the shot
– French 2001 generation transition is too fast for any Europeans. USA 2001 generation transition is too fast for France. Moreover their transition defense is as good as offense
– Hayes first defensive possession: Guarding Jeremy Roach, made two steps back and still got beaten (even though lay up was contested and missed eventually)
– Team of 5 Maledons / Hayes / Cazalons would struggle as well. Depth is the key. Outstanding intensity is constantly kept in USA team thanks to substitution guys stepping in and doing job without quality loss
– Amazing hustle by team USA. Great experience for French supertalents. Elite American prospects play like role players on defense. That is what coming from ultra competitive environment gives you
– Hayes has quick hands and can really bother PGs with length. Feels the moment to go for the ball. Definitely good thief. Many steals and very few fouls or missed gambles
– Hayes likes to overdribble. Super crafty player but likes to do fancy stuff instead of just attacking in straight line at times
– Hayes can pass off the dribble even in hopeless situations. Just made over the head full width, extremely accurate, over the head pass while being double teamed. Truly elite skill
– Hayes still doing well in open court iso. Creates separation but is good not great off the dribble shooter. Those are never easy plays, hard to get into the zone and change the game this way. Also avoids going all the way to the hoop
– USA simply cannot be stopped in the paint. Too much bounce, strength and battling. Athleticism is one thing but the way they use it is absolutely top notch
– Hayes trying hero ball in huge energy consuming mode. Trae Young type but it never works vs great competition unless you make pull ups from 8-9 meters. Ground is covered just too quickly. Killian struggles to involve others and create for himself in two man game
– Game is pretty much over. 2nd half will be just the formality
At U16 FIBA European Championship, French L’Espoirs and U17 World Cup, Hayes made only 52 from 186 (27.9%) three pointers. Anyway calling it a red flag could be an overstatement at this point. His release is not too quick but without close live look it’s hard to find some major flaws to it. Also typically for players who has been getting downhill at will since they first played organised basketball, shooting polish comes later. However at times he tends to go away from spot up jumper opportunity unnecessarily which can suggest that part of problem with his stroke is not big enough confidence level.
Another must improve thing while moving forward is I would say teenage fantasy. He definitely tries too much at times (to finish some of his actions you have to be hyperathletic) and does things which can be described as silly and just doesn’t befit top prospects. Assists / Turnovers ratio at U16s, Pro A U21 and U17s respectively: 1.7 , 1.65 & 1.37.
But still Killian managed to slip into All Tournament team and had good overall performance in Rosario & Santa Fe. Let’s remind why he is such a tantalizing prospect.
This is typical Killian Hayes in halfcourt. Dribbling 10 meters away from the hoop, calling teammate for a ball screen on the right side, navigating defender, hesitation, acceleration and bucket. Doesn’t matter if there was a switch or if defender went below the screen, works perfectly. Beside finding great angle on not easy lay ups and protecting the ball with non shooting hand, he really mastered short jumpshots.
There is a lot to like regarding shot creation. Beside handles he gets separated from defender even by simple drive and stop thanks to his great speed. Can go quickly from 0 to 100 but from 100 to 0 as well. Still it’s just good not great execution as for now. Besides mid range pull ups are definitely not trending in todays NBA and Killian can’t really attempt them from behind the arc. He wasn’t getting many layups in halfcourt vs good competition but he can benefit from better spacing on next level also regarding offensive liabilities of French bigs which allowed opponents to tighten the paint even more.
In general Hayes is great one on one player. He has wiggle with the ball which shows in his sweeping and sharp crossovers. Looks like a player who could bring many oohs and aahs or break some ankles while playing at the Rucker Park off season. Then he is capable of kicking the ball out in less expected moment.
However some part of his offense is repeatable (plus he keeps searching left side) and physical defenders who moreover study moves of opponents can really limit his contribution. He is not soft but not comfortable with battling either. That is one of the reasons why he is failing vs Americans. Beside they also stop his open court prowess which is described in next paragraph.
Absolutely elite skill in his offensive repertoire is playing in transition. If he get long rebound (not mentioning steals on the front defensive line which is his another advantage) then most of the cases two points can be already added for France on the scoreboard. He definitely belongs to those who run equally fast with the ball and handling it at the full speed doesn’t bother him either. He runs slalom between defenders, can hit outlet pass, go coast to coast, finish with the dunk. Moreover excels as a trailer and is still a threat in secondary fastbreaks if defense is not fully set yet. Provides many easy buckets every game.
Recently there appeared more and more suggestions or opinions that Hayes teammate – Theo Maledon is arguably better prospect. Despite playing the same position they are not necessarily similar players. Theo looks just too good for youth stage. Honestly I think that as such a well polished and instinctive player he may have a real shot to play legit back up Point Guard of Asvel Villeurbanne next season.
Anyway if necessary he is more of a classic point guard, excellent in set offense who at the same time can score a lot. Both players are suitable size and experience wise to play multipositional guard lineups and defend either backcourt spot (plus for Hayes – he sleeps at times on D but how many Euro guards can make chase down blocks like him?). To similarities we can include physical profiles based on Global Camp measurements.
Potential NBA guards type of results. Very promising especially for Maledon who previously seemed not to have that necessary explosiveness to break the defense without ball screen and appears to be even better athlete (does it look like this in game situations tho?).
To sum up I would still go with Hayes as #1. He never makes you wait for a long time until he reminds what makes him elite prospect. However flash is not enough and there are definitely issues with consistency or few imperfections in his game which has to be fixed moving forward. It is not out of question whether it turns out that Maledon makes better career.