Nigel Hayes’ NBA draft stock has undoubtedly went up and down numerous times throughout his illustrious career with the Wisconsin Badgers. Though Hayes was a key contributor during, arguably, the most dominant four year period in Badger basketball history, the forward’s chances at getting drafted are so-so at best.
Tankathon and SEC Country both predicted Hayes to be a late second round pick in their latest 2017 NBA Mock Drafts. Tankathon anticipates the Celtics grabbing Hayes with the 56th overall pick, while SEC Country believes the Wizards will snag the forward at the 52.
Hayes declared for the draft after last season. Luckily for Hayes, since he didn’t hire an agent, he was able to return to Greg Gard’s squad for his senior year after not being selected.
The 6-8 forward was selected as the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year before the 2016-’17 season. Hayes fell way short of that mark, and ended up sneaking onto the All Big Ten Third Team.
In a pivotal season for his NBA chances, I personally don’t think Hayes improved enough to gain significant interest from many NBA teams. While Hayes’ field goal percentage and rebounding slightly improved this season, Hayes scored less points per game and struggled mightily from the free throw line.
Nevertheless, let’s take an in-depth look at Hayes’ strengths and weaknesses before the 2017 NBA draft.
The most impressive facet of Hayes’ game throughout his Wisconsin career was undoubtedly his ability to make plays around the rim.
When Nigel Hayes is feeling it, we often see him dominating and beating opponents near the rim. Hayes’s footwork in the paint is exceptional. The forward is quick and athletic down low. When Hayes is having a good game, it truly seems that he can do anything he wants around the rim. If Hayes isn’t scoring in the paint, he tends to at least draw a foul and have the opportunity to cash in from the free throw line.
It’s also worth mentioning that Hayes’ was great off the block during his senior season. Specifically, the right block. Since Ethan Happ joined the Badgers and asserted his talent into their starting lineup, Hayes has lost some desired opportunities off the block. But, Hayes has still done well with what he has been given. Hayes has the ability to shake off defenders and drive to the rim off the block multiple times each game.
Though Hayes’ 58.7 free throw conversion rate during his senior season is a major red flag, there are plenty of NBA players who have still gotten drafted despite woes from the stripe. In other words, that isn’t the part of Hayes’ game that has hurt his NBA chances the most.
Hayes’ jumps shooting ability, specifically his ability to shoot from the outside, never progressed enough to mold him into an NBA caliber player.
At 6-8, Hayes’ is an undersized power forward. Since the most rebounds Hayes’ averaged in a season at Wisconsin was 6.6, in order for him to make it in the NBA, Hayes needs to be able to knock down his outside shots.
Hayes’ best season shooting the ball was his sophomore season. The forward shot 49.7 percent from the floor and 39.6 percent from three that year. While Hayes was on the right track, he didn’t come close to eclipsing those marks the following two seasons. Hayes attempted significantly less threes during his senior season than he did his previous season, converting 31.4 percent.
Hayes’ jump shooting was, by no means, poor during his final season with Wisconsin. However, it simply didn’t improve enough throughout his career to build him into a top tier NBA prospect.
We’ve also seen Hayes fall into some ugly cold spells from the field. Most notably, when Hayes shot 23 percent from the field during Wisconsin’s 2015-’16 Sweet 16 run, converting 9-39 field goals.
Hayes flashed his NBA potential more throughout that three-game period than at any other point during his final collegiate season. Hayes averaged 19 points, eight rebounds, and shot 52.8 percent from the field on the big-time stage.
Unfortunately for Hayes, he didn’t display the dominance that he did in the NCAA Tournament nearly enough this season.
Though there definitely is a chance, no one is putting their money on Hayes’ getting drafted. However, Hayes playing professionally somewhere overseas would be a good bet to take.
Regardless of if Hayes gets drafted or not, he will absolutely have the opportunity to take his talents overseas and earn a great professional salary.
If Hayes’ does get drafted, an improved jump shot could make him a valuable player off the bench on an NBA roster.