Second-year Pistons guard Killian Hayes, a former lottery pick, has improved as a contributor since being demoted to Detroit’s bench three games ago, writes Steve Kornacki of The Detroit News. Head coach Dwayne Casey opted to start veteran point guard Cory Joseph over Hayes, thinking Joseph could be a better fit alongside score-first No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.
“Killian’s only played (23) more games than Cade… and made the transition coming in from Europe,” Casey said. “So, there’s a lot going on for the young man. But we’re patient and will continue to work with him. He’s big, he’s strong, and his shooting is going to come. I have all the confidence in the world it’s going to come.”
Hayes, still just 20, has struggled to find his footing in the NBA. A labral tear limited him to just 26 contests during the 2020/21 NBA season. Across 33 games as a starter next to Cunningham this year, Hayes had been averaging 6.2 PPG, 3.6 APG and 1.5 turnovers a night while connecting on 34.3% of his field goals. During his three contests off the bench, he’s posting averages of 8.3 PPG on 38.1% shooting, plus 6.3 APG and a turnover.
“I’m going to have the ball in my hands a bit more with the second unit,” Hayes said of his new role with the 11-37 Pistons. “Just trying to bring more energy and be more vocal with the second unit coming in, and then also, whenever I play with Cade, just give him help as the point guard.”
There’s more out of the Central Division:
- The Pistons have plenty of trade chips ahead of the February 10 deadline. Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press takes a look at the players who are most and least likely to be moved this year. Second-year GM Troy Weaver has big decisions to make on veteran forward Jerami Grant, veteran center Kelly Olynyk, Cory Joseph, and others.
- The upstart 30-19 Cavaliers have emerged as a true force in the Eastern Conference, despite missing two of their best guards in Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio, both most likely done for the season. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com assesses potential roster upgrades available to Cleveland. The play of guard Darius Garland, center Jarrett Allen, and rookie power forward Evan Mobley has proven especially galvanizing for the team. Fedor weigh in on whether the team should be willing to move on from young players like Sexton or wing Isaac Okoro in pursuit of a win-now veteran.
- After being named to his first All-Star team at age 22 while with the Sixers, now-31-year-old Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday has not been sweating the chatter surrounding his very possible second-ever All-Star berth this year, writes Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Holiday enjoyed an eventful 2021, earning his first NBA title with Milwaukee and nabbing a gold medal with the U.S. Men’s Olympic team.