Nigel Hayes achieved a lot while he was on the floor in a Badgers’ jersey. He played a key role on the 2015 National runner-up team and helped Wisconsin reach at least the Sweet 16 in all four of his seasons.
His production on the floor was noticed each season and now he’ll look to take that same kind of production to the next level. The senior power forward finished his career averaging 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, which are solid numbers for a four-year player in the Big Ten, but the question is whether his game can translate to the more athletic NBA.
Hayes elected to come back for his senior season after a rough go at last year’s NBA Combine and he never lived up the expectations this past year as the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. Despite averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this past season, he has slowly dropped from a projected first round pick to not even being listed on DraftExpress’ most recent mock draft.
His draft stock has surely taken a hit but he still brings a lot of tools to the table that can positively impact the right NBA team. Here’s a look at Hayes’ strengths and weaknesses, where’s the best fit, and how I see things shaking out for him June 22.
If you go by just the numbers then you can see the kind of impact he had at the collegiate game. In each of his final three seasons at Wisconsin he averaged at least 12 points and five rebounds per game. And when you look deeper into those numbers you notice the keys in his game that lead to this production.
Hayes offers range with some impressive low post moves — ask Villanova about that — and a decent jumper. He also has shown potential to hit shot from behind the three point line — 31.4 percent on 70 attempts from deep this past season. This is key since he’s listed at 6-foot-7 on DraftExpress, which is not big enough to be stationed solely under the hoop.
On the other end of the floor Hayes offers solid defense and is a skilled rebounder. He was never known as a big blocker, but he was always able to stay in front of his man and make things harder for the opponent. And he did that without fouling — he averaged only 2.1 fouls per game in his career.
Hayes’ game is overall solid but not dominant, and therefore can be improved in a lot of different categories. As I mentioned above he doesn’t possess the size to be a dominant low post player at the next level so he’s going to need to improve his jump shot even more. It’s decent right now but there’s room for improvement.
Another obvious area for improvement is free throws. It was a circus every time Hayes stepped to the charity stripe this past season, shooting 58.7 percent from the free throw line. That has to improve if he wants to stick around at the next level.
Hayes doesn’t have the size to be a dominant power forward but also doesn’t seem athletic enough to be your natural small forward in the NBA. So he’s going to have to find a niche at the next level. In a lot of ways Hayes is comparable to former Spartan and two-time NBA Champion Draymond Green. Both experienced similar success in college and are listed about the same size. I’m not saying Hayes will be as successful as Green, but finding a team/similar position as Green would be ideal for Hayes.
Hayes isn’t dominant in any part of his game but is solid in almost all parts of his game. And he stayed for all four years, which in the NBA for whatever reason is a knock. So when you combine those two things you find someone who is considered a great college player with ability that won’t translate to pros. However, I believe Hayes could offer a lot to a contending NBA team off the bench. Hayes is a winner and that’s an undervalued thing in these mock drafts, and he has the backbone skills to build off. Expect Hayes to drop to the late second round or go undrafted, but whoever ends up with him could be landing a great role player and maybe even more down the road.