Killian' Time, Part 2
With the help of more film, I compare Killian Hayes to his PG contemporaries in this draft and determine whether he's take-at-all-costs material. Plus, how the Knicks benefit from a Jrue Holiday trade
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News & Notes
We are inching ever so slightly to December 22 as the official tip off date to the 2020-21 NBA season. It will be 72 games long, with the players likely to get their required escrow amount reduced to 18 percent in exchange for the quick restart.
The players and NBA’s board of governors are separately meeting today to nail this down, and Woj and Zach Lowe reported that the meetings are “expected to culminate” in an agreement. David Aldridge has also heard as much from prominent agents. I heard from one plugged in source who echoed what I wrote last week: the NBA’s television partners were behind this push, and are going to get their way.
Other dates of note: a likely November 21 or 22 start to free agency, a December 1 opening of training camps, and a finish ahead of the Olympic games in mid-July.
If this deal is indeed done by Friday, I’d expect the NBA to lift its transaction moratorium fairly fast, possibly as soon as this weekend, meaning teams can start trading with each other.
According to Shams, the Pelicans have openly discussed trading Jrue Holiday, likely to a contending team. More on this below.
SNY’s Ian Begley joined me on the latest KFS Pod and gave some fantastic insight on the Leon Rose regime before making some predictions about how the offseason will go. No one knows this team better than Ian. You’ll want to hear this.
Before I get to this, it should go without saying that the Knicks should not be in the market for Holiday themselves. He might very well be the best non-Paul player to hit the trade market this offseason, and is good enough to swing a championship. With at least a half dozen teams legitimately able to talk themselves into being a Jrue away from a title, the bidding should easily cause any faint Knick notions to go by the wayside.
That doesn’t mean Leon Rose can’t benefit. Here are the teams I could see going after Holiday, and whether they have a salary that the Pelicans would rather divert to the Knicks in a three-way trade:
Brooklyn: Taurean Prince
If we assume the deal is centered around Caris LeVert and the 19th pick, the Knicks could take on Prince for an additional asset. The question then becomes whether a) the Pelicans would rather just take on Prince themselves to acquire said extra asset and b) whether that asset would make the price of the trade too rich for Brooklyn’s blood.
If the asset in question is the Nets 2021 first round pick, the Knicks should grab it and run. The Pels may be one of the teams that gets gun-shy about spending in the current financial climate, so it’s easy to see them not thinking a low first next year is worth taking on Prince, but who knows. New York could also take on Darius Millers’ expiring contract from New Orleans to further grease the skids.
Milwaukee: Eric Bledsoe
The Bucks really don’t have any interesting young players to send to the Pelicans other than Donte DiVincenzo. The 24th pick won’t get it done either, which means they’d also need to send a future first to New Orleans, but that can’t convey until 2024 at the earliest. And that’s all before we get to what the Knicks would receive for taking on Bledsoe.
I could see the argument for simply taking Bledsoe on with no sweetener attached, but $54.5 million over the next three years is a bit too rich for my blood (although only $3.9 million is guaranteed for the final season. That might matter.)
Philadelphia: Al Horford
I went through several Horford trades the other day. In this one, I’m assuming Matisse Thybulle and Josh Richardson would be going to New Orleans. If the Knicks sent 27 to New Orleans, took 21 and Zhaire Smith from Philly, and also got a future first from the Sixers, I could see that being enough.
Golden State: Andrew Wiggins
I’d happily take him on for the 2021 Minnesota first, but then the Pels would only be getting the 2nd pick, which may not be enough for them to give up Holiday. If New Orleans wanted the ‘21 Wolves pick, would getting the second pick this year be enough for the Knicks to inherit Wiggins? I’d trust Thibs with his evaluation on that one.
Denver: Gary Harris
Michael Porter Jr. would be the prize for the Pelicans here, which…who knows if either Denver or New Orleans says yes to that. If we assume both sides were up for the swap, Denver also owns the 22nd pick that they could send to New York. My guess is that the Knicks would have to send out 38 to someone here. This doesn’t feel like one that will happen though.
Los Angeles Lakers: Danny Green
There aren’t any protections left to remove on the picks dealt for Anthony Davis, but LA does still have Kyle Kuzma. Him plus 28 feels low for Holiday, but even if New Orleans bit, there’s nothing significant left for the Knicks. That said, there are worse ways the Knicks could spend money this offseason than taking Danny Green into their cap space.
Other teams I could see getting involved in the bidding for Holiday are the Heat (Kelly Olynyk and a future second, anyone?), the Clippers (from whom the Knicks could take on Pat Beverly, although like the Lakers, there would likely be no sweetener attached) and the Mavs (come home to me Timmy!), but I don’t see the Knicks getting involved in these deals for various reasons.
Out of these trades, I think Brooklyn is the most likely one the Knicks can get in on, but a three-way deal with the Warriors intrigues me the most. It’s the one that would return the best asset, and no one knows Andrew Wiggins better than Tom Thibodeau. If he thought Wiggins could be rehabilitated enough this season to go from being a D- trade asset to a C- one a year from now (and thus potentially be flipped again next offseason in a trade for a star player), I’d trust him. He knows its his ass on the line, after all.
Killian' Time, Part 2
Following yesterday’s newsletter, Prez (of Strickland fame) chimed in on Twitter with some constructive criticism…
Basically, he thought I wasn’t putting enough emphasis on Killian’s shitty team, which finished 13-20 overall in games Hayes played.
He’s right, and it’s a perfect place to start the second half of our discussion, today focusing on Hayes’ prospects for growth and comps to other playmakers in this draft.
Ulm wasn’t good, and even if their competition was mediocre, having to do all the heavy lifting for a bad team at the age of 18 makes it a lot easier for the bloom to go off a prospect’s rose. It also says something about the kid that he never let it get to him.
Following his first matchup with Berlin, Hayes had to be rattled, at least a bit. They took away his left hand and forced him into one poor decision after another down the stretch.
In their second matchup three months later, Hayes came out undeterred, attempting to go right early (more than we can say for the first game) and deftly drawing contact on the above play. Hayes got the line six times total in this one after shooting zero free throws during the earlier matchup.
Watching Killian’s response in this game, and looking at Ulm’s season as a whole, I couldn’t help but think of Cole Anthony. Anthony had to deal with a similarly poor situation at UNC, but by the end of the year, I’m told they were as ready to be done with him as he was to be done with them. Hayes, meanwhile, lost 11 of his first 14 games with Ulm, but would up winning 10 of his final 19. He took the challenge head on and won, relatively speaking.
That’s also not to say his issues from the first matchup disappeared:
After committing eight turnovers in Ulm’s first game against Berlin, Hayes had five more in this one. Several were of the unforced variety, like we see here, where he simply didn’t anticipate the pressure.
Overall though, Killian’s turnovers gradually decreased over the second half of his season. While he had four or more turnovers 10 times in his first 17 games, he equalled or topped that number only three times in his final 16.
Hayes’ handle at this point is…fine. It’s justifiably an area of concern though, because when you couple it with the lack of elite athleticism, it might make you think he’s not going to be able to get to his spots.
Except that he does, one way or another:
(I love that this little move came after Killian had back to back turnovers. There was a moment in the first half when it looked like he was getting rattled, and after this, he was pretty solid for the rest of the game)
As the draft stands, it seems like if the Knicks stay at 8, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll have their choice of either Haliburton or Hayes, and a not insignificant chance that both will be on the board. Haliburton has allegedly wowed teams over the last several months with his poise, IQ and impression that he will contribute to winning in some form or fashion. Killian may have done the same, but we don’t get quite the same gist, both by what’s been reported and where his stock seems to be.
Putting those aspects of the comparison aside though, I’m not sure there’s a valid argument that Hali possesses anywhere close to Hayes’ ceiling.
Killian Hayes did not get to the hoop as much as we would have liked, and he didn’t draw as many fouls as he probably could have, but boy oh boy, do you have to take solace in stuff like this.
Hali, on the other hand, took half as many free throws per 36 minutes and took even fewer attempts at the rim. His handle and athleticism is also worse, and despite hitting a far greater percentage of his shots from deep, he has a shooting form with question marks. Tyrese has also shown no evidence of off the dribble proficiency, unlike Hayes, who has actually been far better off the bounce than on spot ups - something his form and free throw numbers suggest will improve.
Even Haliburton’s passing - which, to be clear, is top notch - doesn’t have enough of an edge over Hayes to make the difference, as we’re reminded of by plays like the above (and just like the first contest against Berlin, I lost count of the number of really good looks Hayes got for his teammates in this game. He had 10 dimes total.)
The best argument for taking Hali over Hayes is that he can come in and immediately help plug multiple holes at the same time, but that hardly applies to a Knick roster that has no holes because it is a single cavernous pit of despair. There is nothing of significance to built off of; no Batman for Hali to play Robin alongside, and he will be exposed for what he can’t do far more than cherished for what he can.
(This will come off as shade on RJ, but as I’ve written about before, just because we’ve seen no indication that he is engine material doesn’t mean he’s not going to be an incredibly helpful player. He will. But an offense built primarily around Hali and RJ is going to have a really rough time generating good looks next season)
This isn’t to say that Hayes is that engine...yet. He will likely struggle early, and NBA competition will be a shock to his system on some nights. There’s nothing he does right now that makes you think he can come in and impress on day one, barring the shot really translating in a big way early, which, despite occasional gems like this…
…I doubt happens.
But I also don’t think he’s going to enter the league and look overmatched, not with the amount of progress he showed from the beginning to the end of last year at his age.
He needs work, and he’s not a sure thing. I think there is a world where he doesn’t progress enough as a shooter to make him a viable starting NBA point guard. But to get back to Prez’s original nitpick, he absolutely carried the load for a bad team, possession after possession, night after night, at the age of 18. Save for the occasional bench burst from former Kenny Payne protege Archie Goodwin, there was no one else that could generate offense for Ulm. It was Killian’s show.
There is also a savvy he possesses that can’t be taught, like here, when he made a high degree of difficulty pass with the game tied and under 20 seconds to go:
Hayes’ ceiling (and likelihood of getting there) is certainly tantalizing enough to make you feel good about the pick if he’s there at 8. It’s also not enough - not for me, at least - where I would bypass the right deal to trade down if it came up.
I haven’t mentioned Kira Lewis’ name once yet here, but he looms large over these proceedings. Lewis may not possess the ceiling that Hayes does, but they’re not far apart, and given Kira’s speed that will absolutely translate from the first moment he steps on an NBA court, I’m more confident he reaches his peak, ever so slightly.
Figuring out how far down the Knicks can trade and still have Kira available to them is a dangerous game, but Walt Perrin has been running draft rooms for decades. He knows what he’s doing, and knows when the risk is too great.
Realistic best case for the Knicks, as far as I can tell: LaMelo, Ant, Wiseman, Deni, Obi, Okoro and Patrick Williams go top seven and Boston trades 14, 26 and 30 to move up to grab Okongwu. With both Hayes and Haliburton still on the board, Kira (or, I suppose, Hayes) falls to 14. Worst case, Orlando tries to jump them, which is where you package another pick to move back up a bit.
Even if the Magic stayed put, the Knicks would be in a great position to package two of 26, 27, 30 and 38 to jump up into the late teens or early 20’s, perhaps for Tyrese Maxey. Drafting and stashing Bolmaro at 26 or Madar at 38 would also be on the table. In short, there’s no such thing as too many picks in the top 40 of this draft, not when the Knicks have this many open roster spots to play with.
Every option should be on the table, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Hayes being available at 8 isn’t considered a huge win for the Knicks. My gut says he should be the pick unless there is a real benefit to trading down. If he is, I’d feel damn good about it.
And two weeks from now, we’ll probably find out if Leon Rose feels the same way.
That’s it for today! See everyone tomorrow for the Friday Edition. #BlackLivesMatter