Although Nigel Hayes was not fortunate enough to hear his name called on Thursday night, he did get some good news. The New York Knicks have announced that they signed the former forward from the Wisconsin Badgers. The Knicks will now get an experienced and highly skilled frontcourt player.
In terms of a winning pedigree, few players can boast the resume of Nigel Hayes. Throughout his career, Hayes was a part of four Sweet 16’s, two Final Fours, and a National Championship game appearance. Overall, the Badgers posted a record of 115-35 during his tenure. The man knows what it takes to win and will bring that to the locker room culture.
It’s no surprise Hayes was successful with Wisconsin. The forward is an absolute technician on the block. He employs a big bag of tricks, but seems to take extra delight in embarrassing defenders with his lightning quick spin move. When opponents adjust, Hayes simply takes advantage of the space by facing up and knocking down a mid range jumper.
Hayes’ game isn’t just limited to the post. He also possesses the ability to extend his range beyond the three-point line and finish at a high clip. For his career, the forward shot 33% from deep. In a league transfixed with pace and space, Hayes is more than equipped to keep off ball defenders honest with his outside threat. If they do overcommit? Hayes is skilled enough to put the ball on the floor and attack, either scoring or finding an open teammate with his sneaky passing ability.
Though undersized at 6-foot-8, Nigel Hayes more than makes up for it with a quick step and high motor. Over the past three seasons, while Hayes has never eclipsed 7 rebounds a game, he has recorded over 2 offensive rebounds a game.
Hayes showcased his footwork and quickness at the NBA Draft Combine in May, turning heads in the process. The forward finished 9th overall in the shuttle run, posting a 2.94 second performance. Perhaps more impressively, though, was the big man’s wingspan. He measured at 7-foot-3.25, tied for 8th overall.
The tools of a solid NBA player are certainly there, but the problems arise when looking at Hayes’ consistency. From his junior to senior year, Hayes dropped 15 points on his free throw percentage. Sandwiched between his sophomore and senior year’s field goal percentage, 50% and 46% respectively, was a junior year of 37% shooting from the floor. In the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Hayes shot 3-17. The game before it? 2-15.
The first order of business for Knicks will be to employ whatever jedi mind tricks are needed to level out Nigel Hayes. The forward has been a model of talent obscured by inconsistency. If they can figure that out, they may have landed a potential free agent steal given the diverse offense tools Hayes possesses.
Regardless, Hayes will certainly get an opportunity to prove himself in the Summer League. If he does well, maybe he can earn a roster spot.