Jaxson Hayes: Defense
Our scouting grades represent the composite opinion of at least three different scouts. Each category is graded based on how we view a player’s current ability level relative to NBA players at the same position (guard, wing, forward or big). A grade of 1 indicates replacement level, a grade of 5 indicates NBA average, and a grade of 10 indicates historically elite. Our composite scouting notes help provide context for our grades.
Hayes is a good on-ball defender in post situations. He has good instincts for positioning himself and is learning to be more patient when defending, though his lack of lower body strength allows him to be knocked off his spot. He still has a tendency to chase blocks and more consistent and determined post players can usually pull him in with a good ball fake. He is also capable of defending for stretches along the perimeter, though he can get blown by when quicker players attack his closeouts. He has good recovery instincts and uses his length well to contest and alter shots, even when out of position. His major hurdle will be limiting his cheap on-ball fouls, something he has had an issue with all season long and limits his floor time.
Hayes has improved his defensive instincts off the ball over the course of his freshman season, a compelling sign for future improvement. Learning to take stock of cutters and weak-side actions is important for NBA big men, especially those who project the ability to challenge shots away from the paint as Hayes does. He is good at closing out on shooters and seems to have a basic grasp of how actions will unfold.
Another area which will need.to be strong for Hayes to get on the court early, his help defense has shown promise. He is capable of making basic rotations and does a good job sliding off his man to address penetration. His major deficiency as a help defender comes from his aggressiveness as a shot blocker. Because of his length, he can challenge early every shot but doing so can move him out of position and open him up to foul trouble. Under the rim, he has great timing and can alter nearly every shot, making him a menace in close quarters.
Texas doesn't run a switch-heavy style of defense, so much of Hayes’ score in this area is based on a limited sample size and extrapolation. He has good feet and is much more graceful than most seven-footers, allowing him to switch on the perimeter and still remain effective. He has a habit of playing slightly further back when defending perimeter players which allows good jump shooters to get some air space off the dribble before he can close it off. He uses his length well to close off driving lanes and can challenge even playing a step back.
High impact plays
Hayes is a bona fide shot blocker. He has the physical tools and awareness to get his hands on everything, anb is even able to get chase-down blocks in transition. He uses his length and anticipation well to create deflections and is a menace when fronting in the post. While his lack of lower body strength and a lower percentage of post ups will limit his on-ball blocks, he still projects as a high value player for creating extra possessions.