New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxon Hayes is playing like center of the future

Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Let me be the first fan of the New Orleans Pelicans to offer an apology to Jaxson Hayes.

I have been pretty tough on the young center this season, and there was a point that I would have bet against his future on this team.

Hayes was benched midway through the season in favor of journeyman Willy Hernangomez and it looked like the writing was on the wall for Hayes’ future with the Pels.

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Some young players don’t bounce back from being benched, but you have to give Hayes credit, he stayed ready and when his number was called again, he made the most of it.

Since returning from the bench, Hayes has been “solid” which is not a word you would have used to describe his play early in the season.

Jaxson Hayes has always been able to bring the spectacular, but his improvement in the nuances of the game are what have helped him most in the latter part of this season.

New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes’ statistics

Hayes’ biggest problems early in the season were that he was often out of position on defense, was getting bullied on the boards and wasn’t setting very effective screens.

He must have learned something from the bench because he has returned playing much more decisively, running the floor harder and generally not making as many mistakes.

Part of Hayes’ issues came from overthinking, as you could often see him out there trying to think through the motions instead of just acting.

Since returning from the bench, Hayes has been a lot more active and aggressive on both ends of the floor, just playing instead of constantly thinking about where he should be.

Over the last ten games, Hayes has improved his scoring, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals while earning five more minutes of playing time per game.

He has brought energy off the bench and has been a part of some of the Pelicans’ best lineups since he returned from his early-season benching.

Hayes was out of the rotation and had plenty of people questioning David Griffin’s choice, but now he looks like a solid rotation player with big upside and is still only 20-years-old. Hayes is a lesson for fans like myself who often get caught up in the details of every game and don’t see the big picture.

Development takes time and Jaxson Hayes is looking more and more like a guy who will be worth the wait.

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