2019 NBA Draft: Jaxson Hayes Could Be Starting Center on Atlanta Hawks

Jaxson Hayes Atlanta Hawks 2019 NBA Draft (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jaxson Hayes Atlanta Hawks 2019 NBA Draft (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A quick look at how Jaxson Hayes might fit on the Atlanta Hawks were he selected in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Though the ping-pong balls were unkind in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks still came away with two Top 10 picks in a draft that Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk believes to be deep. Of course, the #1 overall pick would’ve been preferable, as the fit of Zion Williamson on the Hawks would’ve been tremendous.

Still though, the team will be able to bolster its roster in various ways this offseason via free agency, but more notably through the draft, where the #8 and #10 picks will provide the team multiple avenues to select top-tier talents in the first round.

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One of the most notable players that has been linked to the Atlanta Hawks in the 2019 NBA Draft at either the 8th or 10th pick is big man Jaxson Hayes out of Texas.

Hayes is a prototypical rim-rolling big who logged the second-highest true shooting percentage in the NCAA last season with a bonkers 73.9 percent clip per Bart Torvik. Of course, he did not attempt a single three-pointer, so the majority of those makes were crushing home lobs and cleaning up putbacks.

However, his exceptional finishing and solid free throw shooting (74% per Bart Torvik) should be enough to make Atlanta Hawks fans ponder his role on the team next season were he to be drafted in the 2019 NBA Draft.

With Dewayne Dedmon likely not returning next season as a free agent, the team’s starting center spot would open up for either Hayes or incumbent big man Alex Len.

Though Len had what was easily his best season with the Hawks last season in a consistent role as the beneficiary of some terrific dimes by one of the best passers in the league in Trae Young, his finishing around the rim was a seven-foot center often left something to be desired.

Per Cleaning the Glass, 58 percent of Len’s shots came at the rim for the Atlanta Hawks in the 2018-19 NBA season, which was in the 67th percentile of big men. However, Len only shot 61 percent at the rim, which is in the 26th percentile among bigs. According to NBA Shot Charts, his 1.24 points per possession at the rim was roughly league average.

Compare that to Hayes at Texas, who led the entire NCAA in shooting at the rim with a monstrous 85.4 percent clip at the rim pert Bart Torvik (105 of 123, including 74 of 75 on dunks). Again, alongside Trae Young, Hayes will have ample opportunities to clobber dunks atop the domes of defenders and his willingness and ability to dunk in traffic would serve as a refreshing change of pace from Len’s unwillingness to finish through contact.

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Hayes might not be a panacea, but he is pretty much the best fit on the board for the Atlanta Hawks in the 2019 NBA Draft, and his selection might provide the Hawks with yet another key piece to build around going forward.