Entering the 2016-2017 season, recent Wisconsin graduate Nigel Hayes was one of the players being talked about for preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. Coming off of a monster junior season, it looked as though he was going to continue to grow.
As the season went on, his name dropped out of contention as his statistics dropped. He went from averaging 15.7 points per game in the 2015-2016 season, to averaging 14 a game in 2016-2017.
His scoring wasn’t the only thing that dropped.
He shot 59% from the free throw line, compared to over 70% in his sophomore and junior seasons. One thing that did increase was his three-point shooting percentage. it increased from 29% to 31% as Wisconsin shot from the outside heavily with a veteran perimeter.
Nigel Hayes may have seen his stock drop from his junior to senior season, but parts of his game did improve. He rebounded more, especially on the defensive end. His play on the wings and perimeter was impressive and his size is an asset to his strong defensive play.
Hayes is 6’8’’ with a wingspan that is 7’3’’. His long arms are key to his presence on the floor and on the defensive end. His length allows for him to guard a variety of players on the perimeter and on the wings.
Although he regressed in his senior season in some ways, his athleticism is impressive and his size could be valuable to an NBA team.
Although Hayes went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, he will have the opportunity to play with the New York Knicks in the NBA Summer League and work to land on a roster.
Hayes has shown his ability to defend and shoot the ball well through his four seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances. If he performs well, he could land on an NBA G-League roster or even as a bench player on an NBA Team.
The Knicks are a strong fit for Hayes because of his outside shooting ability and his defense. Those are two aspects of the game the Knicks are looking to add and continue to build upon this upcoming season.
This is not the first time the Knicks have seen Hayes. As part of NBA Draft workouts this spring, he had the opportunity to work out for the Knicks in New York.
While ultimately Hayes would have liked to have been drafted or picked up in free agency, this is a good spot for him to be in. He has the opportunity to show his skillset and still have a chance to make a roster as the regular season rolls around. Although this does not guarantee him a roster spot, it gives him the opportunity to have more playing time with other NBA prospects and players who will drafted. Not only will the Knicks have the opportunity to get a closer look at him, but other NBA teams will as well.
If Hayes plays well and shows his skillset, he should be able to land a spot on a G-League for the 2017-2018 season.