Examining Jaxson Hayes fit with the Hawks

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The two most recognizable needs for the Hawks are on the wing and down low at center. Although, I would argue that Alex Len could make a real run at earning another contract in Atlanta based on his production this upcoming year. But that is another story I will bring to you in the near future. Of all the centers in the draft, Jaxson Hayes is the one I’ve seen mocked to the Hawks the most – usually with the tenth pick.

The fit makes sense. Dewayne Dedmon is set to hit free agency, and Alex Len will be in the same situation this time next year. Bringing in another youthful starter that is on the same track as Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter is the goal with the Hawks’ two picks after all. And there are some signs that Jaxson Hayes could pan out nicely in the frontcourt with Collins.

His staple as a freshman at Texas was his defense. He’s a legit rim protector standing at 6’11” inches with a 7’4″ wingspan, averaging 2.2 blocks in only 23.3 minutes per contest. That’s going to translate to the next level, but being solely a shot blocker isn’t enough to earn minutes in the NBA. You have to be able to move and occasionally show your worth out on the perimeter. Hayes is athletic, quick on his feet, and will be able to defend the pick and roll. Where the real concerns lie are on the offensive end.

Hayes’ size, length, and athleticism make him a threat to run to the rim. Trae Young tends to make the most out of those type of players, so Hayes wouldn’t be a total waste offensively. But for him to be worth a top-ten pick, the Hawks are going to have to believe he can make three-pointers in the future. Not everyone on the Hawks has to be able to shoot, but looking at the way Dewayne Dedmon, John Collins, and Alex Len have progressed as shooters under Lloyd Pierce, it is not rocket science to conclude it is preferred – particularly when picking in the lottery.

At Texas, Hayes did not attempt any threes. But like I’ve said with other prospects, that’s not necessarily a total red flag for the Hawks. John Collins did not take any threes in college, Dewayne Dedmon didn’t take any threes in the NBA until he joined the Hawks two years ago, and the same is true for Alex Len – who only had 25 three-point attempts in his first five years with the Suns. Atlanta emphasizes shooting. And with enough practice, they believe they can turn anyone into a shooter as long as they have a competent shooting motion.

So what about Hayes? Does he have what it takes to become a viable three-point shooter at the next level? I would not say it is out of the question.

Often a telltale sign is the player’s free-throw percentage. If he’s shooting below 60%, you can bank on his shooting form looking a bit like Shaq’s without even having to see it. Hayes passes that test. As a Longhorn, he shot 74% from the line on over three attempts per game. Now let’s take a look at the actual form:

These aren’t three-pointers, but they show his shot isn’t busted, and if he can make these consistently from 18 feet, the Hawks probably think they can make him a sniper by his second season. I’m only somewhat kidding, but everyone who has come to Atlanta over the last two years has improved as a shooter. I don’t see why Hayes would be any different. It’s not like the Hawks would be expecting him to shoot contested threes; they only need him to be successful enough when he is wide open to keep defenses honest.

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