New Orleans Pelicans: How Jaxson Hayes can save his season

Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans dunks (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans dunks (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Pelicans, Dennis Schroder, Jaxson Hayes
Dennis Schroder #17 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots over Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans have been largely disappointing this season, partly because their young guys have not progressed.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker is out of the rotation after showing poor shot selection and ball handling.

Kira Lewis Jr. has been up and down, though he has flashed signs that he will be a competent point guard at some point.

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Same with 20-year-old Jaxson Hayes, who shows signs of how he can be an impact talent on this team but also also disappeared from the rotation due to inconsistent play.

I listed Hayes as one of the guys the Pels need more from in the second half but first he has to beat out Hernangomez for minutes.

Hayes is certainly more talented than Willy Hernangomez but the latter doesn’t make as many mistakes and is in general much more consistent even though he is not spectacular by any measure.

If the New Orleans Pelicans continue to fade from playoff contention, Hayes is going to see more action, so there is still plenty of time for him to save his season and come away with some positives.

Here’s how he can do it.

 New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes needs to hustle relentlessly

One thing that has been missing from this Pelicans’ team is desire and hustle. We see it from Josh Hart off the bench, but hardly anyone else brings consistent energy and hustle, especially off the bench.

Hayes needs to be relentless when he does get into the game, to run the floor like his life depends on it and to move non-stop on defense.

I have spent a lot of time watching Isaiah Stewart for the Detroit Pistons, who is a rookie yet already better than Hayes. Why? The man is relentless.

He sprints back on offense, and gets 2-3 easy hoops a game just by beating his man down the floor. He fouls a lot, yes, but he never stops moving on defense, is never standing around flat-footed and even if he is out of position, he finds someone to defend or put a body on.

This is the type of play we need to see from Hayes, who has coasted on pure talent for far too long. Sorry, kid, but that doesn’t work in the NBA, where every player was the best on their team at some point.

Hayes will win over Stan Van Gundy if he plays with fire, and relentless hustle that will help the coach overlook some of his mistakes.

Hayes flashed signs of this in the comeback vs. the Bulls but it has to be his modus operandi. Hayes is often just standing around, which is not a good look. Even if it is not always effective, you’ll never get embarrassed if you hustle.