New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes is showing star potential

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Jaxson Hayes‘ rookie and sophomore years for the New Orleans Pelicans have been pretty turbulent, to say the least.

The athletic center went ninth in the 2019 draft in a year where New Orleans altered the trajectory of their franchise. Along with rookies Zion Williamson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Hayes signified a changing of the guard and a sign of things to come.

However, compared to his draft classmates, Hayes’ career to date is a mixed bag. Earlier this month, we spoke about Hayes and his development.

While Williamson turned into a franchise cornerstone and Alexander-Walker continues to earn consistent minutes while looking like a future starting guard, Hayes’ consistency and understanding of the game wavered for a season and a half. Roughly twenty games into the season, Hayes lost his backup role to Willy Hernangómez.

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In those minutes, Hernangómez’s strengths overshadowed Hayes. Albeit being an efficient post technician and rebounder, his physical limitations capped the potential of the bench unit as a defensive force. Shortly after Hayes’ demotion, Stan Van Gundy quickly realized that Hayes’ potential was too much to limit him to a reserve role.

Unlike most young players, Hayes took the demotion in stride. He soaked in all the action from afar and used it to gather his thoughts and process the game. The time was invaluable as he learned the nuances of rotations and defensive scheming, critical components of any Van Gundy team.

Since then, Hayes has redeemed himself and is starting to show the potential that has had fans so excited at different times over the last two seasons.