Jaxson Hayes: Role
Great at challenging and altering shots without fouling
Good vertical gravity as a rim runner
Fluid athlete who moves like a smaller player
Good efficiency around the rim
Has a solid frame to add weight and strength, and may even grow a little more
Lacks explosiveness to be an apogee rebounder, doesn’t make strong contact to be a box out guy
Lacks a go-to post-up move to get buckets against bigs
Doesn’t have an appreciable face up game
Too aggressive looking for blocks early in the year, can land him in foul trouble
Offensive role at Texas
The Texas Longhorns have produced a slew of NBA-caliber big men over the past few seasons, including Brooklyn Nets’ standout sophomore Jarrett Allen and last year’s lottery pick Mo Bamba. Jaxson Hayes would like to add his name to the list as another productive professional this spring, and he will certainly garner more than a few interested parties as one of the youngest potential draftees. While playing for the Longhorns, Hayes has proven himself to be an efficiency darling - scoring above the 90th percentile in four out of his five graded categories on Synergy. He is predominantly deployed as a roll man who gives Texas vertical space as he crashes to the rim, though he has shown the ability to attack using one-dribble moves off the short roll as well. He also does a lot of clean up work around the basket as an offensive rebounder, using his length and positioning to get putbacks while the defense is trying to high-point the ball. Interestingly, he does a lot of his offensive rebounding from “out of position,” usually giving up the interior spots in favor of attacking from along the baseline and using his wingspan and strong hands to collect offensive boards.
Offensive role projection -
One of Hayes’s biggest limitations in the NBA will be on the offensive end. He lacks a true go-to move and usually scores by being able to get the ball up and over his defender. A major concern for Hayes at the moment is absorbing contact. While he can still get the ball up on the glass, he is usually unable to go up and through defenders. He has a tendency to curl his shot down toward his body after taking a blow, preventing him from getting cleaner looks at the basket. As a roll man he is excellent at creating vertical gravity when he is untagged. He is usually smart when selecting his avenue of attack when rolling to the hoop - trying to bounce out as far from the ball handler as possible to give his guards room to operate. His screening angles are good, usually catching defenders in their blind spot, but he needs to make more significant and sustained contact to allow the guard to go past. He has a habit of bringing the screen in at the correct angle and then slipping it before offering any impediment, effectively negating any advantage created in the action. He has limited reps as a catch-and-shoot player and usually favors taking a dribble and using his long frame to leap past defenders around the rim.
Defensive role at Texas
Hayes is a tried and true rim protector for Shaka Smart’s team, using his length and footwork to block and alter shots around the rim. He usually draws the assignment of defending the opponent’s best low-post player or rim runner, a situation designed to keep him around the rim as often as possible. He had trouble early in the year defending against post ups and was very prone to biting on fakes and picking up fouls. He has improved his discipline (though not to the level which he will need to in order to stay on the floor in the NBA) and has learned to leverage his wingspan to his advantage. He has also shown the ability to challenge shots along the perimeter, even blocking a few three-point attempts. He tends too close out a little too recklessly when contesting shots, though he has been rewarded with some errant misses.
Defensive role projection -
Texas plays a pro-style coverage on pick-and-rolls, hard-hedging and recovering against capable shooters and playing drop coverage against guards who predominantly slash to the rim. Hayes has shown a good understanding of both systems and will likely be better suited for teams who play a similar style as opposed to a switch-heavy scheme. He is a good on-ball shot blocker, though that skill is somewhat mitigated by the declining utilization of post ups at an NBA level. He will need to stay disciplined when playing as a help-side defender. He has a tendency to bite on any and every pump fake, a problem which is exacerbated by the fact that stronger players can bump him off his spot by getting into his body, drawing contact and a foul. Because of his length he will be a force to be reckoned with along the interior. While his footwork is good, he lacks the real foot speed and agility to defend on the perimeter for long stretches, though he offers nice resistance closing out on three-point shooters and forcing an unnaturally high arc.
Why Hayes will earn minutes as a rookie
Hayes is a fresh-out-of-the-box defender who will be able to change trajectories and outright stonewall drives from day one. While it isn’t a sexy archetype, there is a place for a big man who protects the paint and can play above the rim (see Capela, Clint). Many teams at the top of the draft are hunting to pair a rim protector with their other young players to help bolster lackluster defenses, and Hayes will be ready to take on that role from day one. He has a solid frame, so adding weight and strength (two things he desperately needs as a 6’11, 220-pound big man) should be something he can do early on. Adding strength in particular will allow him to utilize his offensive skills as screener and vertical spacer more readily, letting him both make and finish through contact. Finding an offensive niche to fill will be critical for Hayes, and his offensive rebounding may be another avenue for him to be a contributor. He is crafty and positions himself on the baseline side of the rim which serves a twofold purpose: warding off helpside shot blockers and giving an unexpected avenue to collect boards.
Why Hayes’ minutes may be limited as a rookie
Many of Hayes major issues in finding NBA minutes will be a result of his limited offensive positionality. He lacks any really jump shooting or face-up abilities and doesn’t have a move which is guaranteed to get him a bucket (certainly not a necessity for competent NBA players, but it does help). He will be forced into a dunker spot role, which limits the flexibility of the lineups around him to spacing forwards. He is also a lackluster defensive rebounder, lacking the pop to high-point the ball against NBA competition. Rebounding tends to occur farther from the rim than in the NCAA, and Hayes has made a living collecting up-close-and-personal boards. He will have to adapt his style to produce more possession-ending results in order to find serious minutes as his teams’ sole true big on the floor. A smaller and much more addressable concern comes from his frame. He is willowy and spry, a much more fluid athlete than he appears to be at first glance, but he lacks the strength to go toe-to-toe with NBA behemoths like Joel Embiid or Steven Adams. Getting into a professional weight program and taking better care of his body will definitely yield favorable results for the 19-year-old.