The New Orleans Pelicans have selected Jaxson Hayes with the No. 8 pick of the 2019 NBA draft. New Orleans acquired this pick in a trade earlier Thursday that gave the Atlanta Hawks the fourth overall pick, which they used to select Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter.
Off the radar entering the season, Hayes quickly caught the attention of scouts with a size and mobility that translates to standout offensive efficiency and defensive production. He just turned 19 in May and is likely more of a project than an immediate answer, but the long-term scouting lens sees him a potential franchise rim protector.
Weight: 218.6 lbs
Pro comparison: Jarrett Allen
Hayes shot 72.8 percent by tapping into his size, length, coordination and motor for easy baskets around the hoop. He ranked in the 90th percentile or higher on pick-and-rolls, cuts, post-ups and transition. Hayes plays directly to his strengths as a finisher, and though he didn't take jump shots at Texas, his 74.0 percent free-throw mark was encouraging.
Hayes does not project as a threat to create, as he hasn't shown any translatable offensive ball skills. His scoring upside is limited. He didn't make a jumper all season, and he totaled just nine assists. Despite his size, bounce and quickness, he was not an effective rebounder, particularly on offense, having converted just 13-of-23 putbacks (52nd percentile). At 218.6 pounds, adding muscle is a must. Starting Hayes also means pairing him with a specific type of power forward to stretch the floor.
Hayes blocked 3.8 shots per 40 minutes, and all signs point to a disruptive defender around the basket, given his college success, quick jump and 7'3½" wingspan. He did average 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes, so he'll need to improve his positioning and feel for the whistle. Otherwise, he showed promise switching pick-and-rolls and moving his feet around the perimeter.
Hayes won't be expected to play starter minutes as a rookie. The 19-year-old will likely struggle with physicality and foul trouble the way Mitchell Robinson did for the New York Knicks last season. However, Hayes should continue to rack up easy baskets simply by running, jumping and playing hard. The blocked shots will be there as well, but in 2019-20, he'll be used more as an energizer off the bench than as the lineup's full-time anchor.
Projected role: Starting rim runner/protector
A best-case projection has Hayes becoming one of the game's top rim runners and rim protectors. He resembles Jarrett Allen, another Texas first-rounder, and others like Robinson and Clint Capela. The drawback to Hayes is how he may limit the offense, and against certain teams, there may be a more effective lineup with a stretch 5 on the floor. Either way, Hayes seems to have one of the draft's highest floors as a high-end bench spark at worst.