The 2018 NBA Draft was littered with high-profile big men, with Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. all landing in the top seven picks in June. Given the build-up to draft night, it wasn’t a surprise to see that quintet of players selected (very) early in the process but, through the scope of a changing NBA, it was a bit jarring to see that many “true” bigs near the top of the pecking order.
With that as the backdrop, the stage is set for something of a reckoning in 2019. There is a very real possibility that no traditional big men will be selected in the top ten. Zion Williamson could be seen as a “big” in some ways but, if you remove his ridiculous combination of traits from the table, no other prospect is a clear-cut top 10 pick and that paves the way for a previously unheralded center from Texas to crash the party.
Jaxson Hayes’ numbers won’t blow you away, as the freshman is averaging only 10.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game on a relatively uninspiring Longhorns team. For good measure, he wasn’t a five-star prospect well-known on the AAU/EYBL circuit and Hayes doesn’t have the polished offensive profile of players like Ayton and Carter in 2018. However, he does bring an interesting package of skills to the table and, while they may not present over-the-top upside on the offensive end, Hayes does fit the modern mold.
He doesn’t have a jump shot to speak of at this point but Hayes stands at 6’11 with a 7’4 wingspan and displays high-end athleticism. There isn’t a player in this class that can mirror him in terms of athleticism and length at the center position and, while he needs to rebound at a (much) higher level, Hayes can protect the rim on one end and act as a rim-runner on the other.
There are swing skills with Hayes, including his ability to defend in space on the perimeter and whether he can stay on the floor given his foul-prone nature at the college level. Still, teams will know the archetype they are selecting when considering Hayes in the lottery and it feels like a safe bet that an organization could fall in love with him pretty early in the draft, even without the obscene upside associated with a 20-point scorer at the position.
Where does Hayes fall in our latest mock draft? Let’s find out.
*Note: Draft order using FiveThirtyEight projection as of Feb. 14*