With Houston, his former team, Hayes played under former Kings coach Rick Adelman and alongside a pair of defensive stalwarts in Shane Battier and Luis Scola.
My initial reaction to news of the deal was to cringe and gather up the verbal firing squad for Kings GM Geoff Petrie. Petrie's biggest flaw, in my mind, is that he doesn't do business with a sense of urgency. It's almost as if he doesn't realize how dire the situation is in Sacramento—Power Balance Arena included.
On the other hand, the fact that I think this way is proof that sports is a multi-billion dollar industry—what other industry can you name that has people screaming at the tops of their lungs for the heads of the companies because "they don't know what they're doing"? (Politics doesn't count.)
Even though I harbored an instant dislike for this $20 million deal, there are some major positives—even if they're hidden (and perhaps even a little bit of a stretch).
Here are five reasons why Chuck Hayes might help the Kings to a miracle playoff push in 2011-2012.
It's no well-kept secret that Hayes is known for his defensive prowess. At 6'6", he's grossly undersized for a center. The problem for most centers (and athletes in general) is that they don't move their feet quickly enough to keep up with their competition.
This video is a perfect example of how Hayes has been able to guard talented offensive players like Amar'e Stoudemire. Keep in mind that when you play against a team like the Knicks, the goal is not to stop Carmelo or Amar'e from scoring. For most teams, the goal is to keep them from creating shots for others and, thus, to shut down everyone else on the floor.
(The Kings play the Knicks on New Year's Eve and again in February, and I'm looking forward to watching Hayes attempt to guard Amar'e now that the Knicks have another scoring threat in Carmelo. There's a solid chance he won't succeed, but you know he'll be trying).
What was Michael Jordan's biggest asset? Probably his penchant for competition (no, gambling does not count). Where did this asset present itself most abundantly? When he D'd someone up and shut them down for the entirety of a game.
I am by no means comparing Jordan's defensive skills with Hayes' abilities. On the other hand, there is something to be said for a player that always defends the best player on the other side. If nothing else, Tyreke Evans will no longer have to constantly take bullets for the Kings in this regard.
Bruce Bowen and Shane Battier have long been known for their abilities to play defensively, and if Hayes sticks around long enough and figures out how to shoot a free throw (60 percent in his career), he just may be remembered alongside those two names.
OK, fine, there's no way we'll remember him like we do Bowen—but you get the point.
Who we MIGHT compare Hayes to sooner rather than later is Sir Charles himself, Charles Barkley.
Barkley played 16 seasons, averaged less than 10 boards per game ONLY in his rookie season (and averaged a total of four offensive boards per game, which is straight up insane, given his height), and managed to drop over 22 ppg.
Hayes will never get close to that. But guess what? Barkley had the exact same tiny 6'6" stature as Hayes.
In case you can't tell, that's a photo of Hayes defending four-time NBA Champion and three-time Finals MVP Tim Duncan. (I know, sometimes it's hard to tell who he is when he's not jab-stepping right and then hitting a bank shot from 12 feet).
DeMarcus Cousins is going to need help defending the biggest bodies in the NBA. I recently wrote that Cousins is a decent defender inside, but he struggles to give the best effort every time down the court.
Let's give him a break; he was a rookie and probably wasn't in the best shape for an entire 82-game season. With only 66 games this year, Cousins will have the opportunity to give more effort in a shorter time period.
Sam Dalembert and DMC could seemingly hold down the fort without Hayes. Personally, though, I like a strong, feisty 6'6" center over an aging, shot-block-happy 6'11" defender.
Overall, I think both Dalembert and Hayes have something to offer the Kings and it's up to coach Paul Westphal to intelligently play them off of one another and help each player to expose his strengths to the Western Conference.
Here's a short list of big men on current rosters that Hayes will likely have to defend: Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Carlos Boozer, Amar'e, David West (he could be gone soon, though), Zach Randolph, Nene (also a free agent), Dwight Howard (if he stays in Orlando, I'll be shocked), Shawn Marion and Tim Duncan.
Last year, in 74 games (and at 28 minutes per game), Hayes averaged 5.3 DR and 3.1 OR, which equals 8.4 RPG.
Oddly enough, the Kings finished fourth in the NBA last year in rebounds per game. When you finish fourth in the league in rebounds and you only win 24 games, one of two things has happened: Either you've missed so many shots that you've constantly gotten your own offensive rebounds, or you're a great defensive rebounding team that hasn't scored enough points—despite having more opportunities than 85 percent of the league.
As you might have guessed, the Kings definitely fit into the second category. They finished 23rd in the league in shooting percentage (thank you, Francisco Garcia—and I'm only half kidding).
Westphal is a difficult guy to predict, but the bulk of playing time will be given to these eight players:
Hayes represents a significant defensive upgrade and, most importantly, he'll provide a presence in the middle of the floor that most nearly-winless teams don't have. He crashes boards, dives for loose balls, talks a healthy amount of trash and is getting better at free throws. (He's still terrible, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt, considering that Cousins shoots 68 percent and Dalembert 67 percent.)
He also significantly increased his assist total last year to 2.7 per game. I suspect that with a solid backcourt of Evans, Salmons and Fredette (who will probably be unfairly charged with the wealth of the franchise), Hayes will start gravitating towards Bill Walton-like court vision. (Where's the sarcasm font when I need it?)
(Note: Wouldn't it be funny if Chuck Hayes had even heard this song before? FF to 0:50 to see what I mean.)
Chuck Hayes was born in San Leandro and went to high school at Modesto Christian. He led an improbable team to the D1 Title game back in 2000.
What does this mean for the Kings? Probably nothing basketball-wise, but wasn't the Kings' fanbase once known as the loudest and best in all of basketball? What happened? Did the refs kill that mojo in 2002? I can't even begin to count the number of times I've watched those YouTube videos. It's definitely unhealthy.
Hopefully, Chuck Hayes can, at the very least, breathe some life back into Sacramento. I'm not completely sold on him, but at this point, I see JJ Hickson, Jason Thompson, DMC and Dalembert complementing Hayes' big-man defensive prowess quite nicely.
The real question is this: Does Petrie really think we didn't notice that he's paying $5 million per year to a guy who has never made more than $1.9 million? It doesn't look good that Marquis Daniels is going back to Boston like I predicted.
I like Hayes a lot and I can see what value he will add to the Kings...
...but this still smells an awful lot like a salary floor purchase—even if it's not.