New Orleans Pelicans: Stan Van Gundy has to make Jaxson Hayes better

The New Orleans Pelicans should hope that Stan Van Gundy can help Jaxson Hayes reach his potential soon

When the New Orleans Pelicans hired Stan Van Gundy to be their next head coach one word instantly came to everyone’s mind, development. The reason why that word instantly soared into people’s minds is that Stan Van Gundy has a reputation for turning young teams into contending ones.

That’s why the excitement was so high for Van Gundy was so high because Pelicans fans finally believe that they have a coach who can take this team’s young core to the next level. It’s not that simple though, Van Gundy’s presence won’t just make the Pelicans better, and here’s why.

See, I don’t doubt Stan Van Gundy or the staff he’s built so far (Bob Beyer and Fred Vinson) in their ability to teach the young Pelicans the fundamentals of the game and how to improve minor hiccups, but it’s on the players to want to become better too. Van Gundy won’t fix this team quickly without the players buying in.

That’s why I’m looking specifically at Jaxson Hayes to improve this year. Why Hayes, when Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson are supposed to be the focal point? Well, I think of it this way. That core trio has already proven that they’re excellent young players in the NBA, regardless of their fundamentals, but Hayes hasn’t. The reason he hasn’t is that Hayes still plays a very raw game that I think would benefit the most from Van Gundy’s teaching.

How Stan Van Gundy can make Jaxson Hayes a great player for the New Orleans Pelicans

When I think about Hayes, I see a player with elite athletic ability and only a broad understanding of the game. When he’s on the court sometimes he gets too caught up in being a basketball player that he doesn’t stick to a defined role or key fundamentals.

When looking at Van Gundy’s coaching history, a player of Hayes’ mold is familiar to him. Hayes is from the same lineage as Udonis Haslem, Dwight Howard, and Andre Drummond, all players who we noted took a step forward under Van Gundy. So how can replicate their success with Hayes?

It all starts by giving Jaxson Hayes a defined role on the Pelicans’ roster and letting him grow into it, something Hayes didn’t receive last year. Ideally, this role would be the same one Van Gundy gave Dwight Howard which is focusing on protecting the paint on defense and be a threat at the basket on offense. Many teams today call that “rim running”.

Within that role, Hayes might take his lumps at the beginning, but most young players do. The key is sticking with Hayes and letting him master it. From there, Van Gundy can grow what Hayes does on the court the same way he has with previous players. That could entail having Hayes become more of a commanding presence in the post, or stepping out to the perimeter if his shot develops.

If Hayes can work through that gradual development plan that Van Gundy has used with previous big men then that makes the Pelicans an even bigger threat going forward. That’s why I think Hayes is so important this season. Hayes reaching his potential makes this Pelicans team a complete one, with threats at every position. That’s the type of development that should excite fans about Stan Van Gundy’s hiring more than anything.