The San Antonio Spurs have seemingly turned a corner as they are now 18-16 and have been playing much better as of late. This has catapulted them out of “definite lottery picking” into only “possible lottery picking” come June 2019. In fact, they are now projected to pick around the middle of the first round in the 18-22 range. While that might give them a few less options who they can grab, there are still some good options available to them with one of those picks.
One of those picks is right in their backyard at the University of Texas. 6-foot-11, 220-pound freshman big man Jaxson Hayes has been quietly impressing NBA Draftniks and could be making a case to go one-and-done for the Longhorns and coach Shaka Smart. He’s an athletic big man who projects to be a great rim protector at the NBA level. Here are some of his more important stats (in about 20 minutes per game):
- 10.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.5 BPG
- 74.6 FG%, 61.8 FT%
- 132.4 ORtg, 89.8 DRtg
While those numbers aren’t as striking as some other potential lottery picks, he’s putting up those stats in only half a game’s worth of minutes. He’s shown flashes of what he could be doing in the NBA and a lot of that is running the floor, finishing around the rim, and cleaning up the boards. Hayes has a relentless motor and he’s a very good athlete at his size.
Hayes has a lot to work on offensively, but he already finishes strong at the basket and moves well off the ball. In fact, he scores a bunch of his points from his off-ball movement. He has to improve on his face-up and post game, but if he isn’t expected to contribute in that area right away, he will be fine learning in the G-League. He will also need to improve his passing a bit, but that’s an easy fix with the Spurs.
Defense will be the calling card for this young big as he is truly a gifted shot blocker with his athleticism, timing and intuition for when to come from the weak side on a block. He’s also a good rebounder despite what the numbers might say. He’s a decent defender when not in help, but he has a tendency to foul too much and he can a bit undisciplined. A result of him being so young.
Should the Spurs need another athletic big man and want to get younger at the position, Hayes would be a good option. That’s assuming he goes pro after one year as well. It’s not a given, but if Hayes starts playing better during the conference slate he could earn some more playing time and pump up his stats a bit.