Having a higher pick than No. 8 in this year’s NBA Draft would make life a lot easier for team president Leon Rose and the rest of the Knicks front office. But there is always the prospect of trading up to get someone you truly believe can make an impact for years to come.
As SNY’s Ian Begley has reported in the past, the Knicks have looked into that option. And if they do so, PG Killian Hayes could certainly be the player they are targeting.
Hayes was born in Florida but played with Cholet in the French League and ratiopharm Ulm in Germany’s Bundesliga. The lefty is a talented scorer at the position and someone that can facilitate as well, getting his teammates involved in the action.
Scouts are loving 18-year-old Hayes’ makeup at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, which is a solid starting build for an NBA rookie. Could the Knicks like him so much that they would trade up to get him? Looking at mock drafts, it appears to be the only way they could land him, as he can easily be a Top 5 selection.
Let’s break down the case for and against trading up to get Hayes:
The case for trading up for Hayes
Former head coach David Fizdale always said that the Knicks needed a point guard that could take over and score when the team needed it. Well, that’s Hayes’ specialty.
Hayes Is particularly efficient in isolation scenarios, as NBA.com’s Eric Fawcett points out that he is called the German James Harden, an ode to the man that basically reinvented the iso offense in his own right. It could just be the lefty shooting stroke that gives Hayes that comparison, but he really does know how to use his frame and ball-handling skills to create separation and give himself a great chance to score.
In just 10 games with Ulm last season, Hayes averaged 12.8 points on 10 field goal attempts per game with a 45.5 shooting percentage. His assist total also sky-rocketed when he was playing more on the court, going from 3.1 in 2018-19 to 6.2 this past season.
And I know what some Knicks fans might be thinking: We already tried getting a former French league standout point guard in Frank Ntilikina and look how that turned out. Hayes, though, is someone who has established his offensive game and is aggressive to the basket compared to Ntilikina, whose game was defensive-heavy when he came overseas.
There is room for Hayes to grow into his body as well, which could make him a force at the point guard position after some development in the Knicks’ system.
He checks off all the boxes when looking at a point guard that projects into a scoring threat that also moves the ball around well. Off the pick-and-roll especially, Hayes’ long frame can help him get ahead of defenders and work with Mitchell Robinson in what could be a lethal combo. He also sees the floor well, so players like RJ Barrett can sit on the wings and expect the ball in their hands when they’re open.
The case for not trading up to get Hayes
The Knicks have two first-round picks, with No. 27 in their possession as well via the Los Angeles Clippers. A trade up to land Hayes could mean that pick goes in the package as well.
Does Rose want to give up draft capital with a team he knows needs all the prospects it can get?
Whether it’s Hayes or someone else, that will be the main question that needs to be answered by the team president. In Hayes’ case specifically, it might not be wise to go after an 18-year-old that has the makeup but hasn’t exactly dominated over in Europe like, say, Luka Doncic did.
There is also the knock that Hayes gets on the defensive side of the ball at times. He is extremely athletic and makes some great plays, but the consistency on defense isn’t always there. With a 6-foot-7 wingspan to go along with his height, he should be able to be a locked down defender, and one that can guard multiple positions. But that hasn’t shown yet in his game and who knows if that will be developed?
It would be up to the Knicks to figure out, but maybe it would be safer to choose a different point guard like Tyrese Hailburton or RJ Hampton at No. 8 (or even trade down to select one of them) and keep that No. 27 selection for another prospect that can contribute. They could even go with someone like PF Obi Toppin to get the scorer on their roster at a different position, and select a point guard later on.
The Knicks would need to be absolutely sure that Hayes is the point guard they’ve been searching for, and even with that being the case, a trade up doesn’t solidify the Knicks land him in the draft. It’s a big risk for Rose to take in his first ever draft with the team.