Two seasons into his career, the Pistons' point guard of the future is slipping slowly into the past.
But general manager Troy Weaver still has faith in Killian Hayes, the player he drafted seventh overall in 2020 to kickstart the Pistons' restoration.
Weaver acknowledged that Hayes has been "up and down this season, for sure" in an interview Tuesday with the Stoney & Jansen Show, "but typically young players have highs and lows and he's trying to continue to grow and get his footing under him."
Hayes is one of only three first-round picks from the 2020 draft, and the only one among the top 15, with a negative in the win shares department halfway through his second NBA season. But he remains 20 years old with fewer than a full season's worth of games under his belt after missing most of his rookie year with a hip injury.
Dwane Casey and the Pistons recently moved Hayes into a bench role as the leader of the second unit, which at times has helped. He notched a career high 12 assists last Friday against the Hornets and scored 10 fourth-quarter points earlier this month against the Timberwolves. But he went scoreless Monday against the Wizards and fouled out in 12 minutes against the Grizzlies last Thursday.
"He’s trying to find the consistency in his game and what the coaches need from him, and he’ll continue," Weaver said. "He works, he’s working at it every day, and I’m very confident that he will continue to grow and hopefully gain some consistency. That’s what we’re looking for in all our young players. You see flashes of what they can do, but it needs to be consistent.
"He’s searching for consistency and the coaches are trying to put him in position where he can become consistent, so that’s what we’re looking for right now."
Hayes has two more months this season to prove his worth to the Pistons' future, which is now built squarely around Cade Cunningham. He remains under contract through next season with a $7.4 million club option for 2023-24, but Weaver said he plans to be "active" in free agency this summer, which could include bringing in a more established point guard to run the backcourt with Cunningham.
Hayes was supposed to be a face of the Pistons' future, and he still can be. He doesn't turn 21 until July. But with each down in a season with sparse personal highs, the clock starts to tick a little faster.
Other highlights from Weaver's interview on 97.1 The Ticket:
On his patient approach to the rebuild: "I won’t lose patience because I know we’re building it the right way. This will be the first summer we can really be active in free agency, we’ll have a lot of dead money off the books. We’ll have another high pick. But anything you restore takes time, and we’re going to be patient and build the right way and come out on the other side of it feeling good. It’s easy to lose patience and try to fast-track it and do different things, but we want to be sustainable winners with a sustainable model. So it takes a little time. We have some young men growing up in this league and trying to find their way and developing those (winning) habits. I’m excited, though, finishing this season and what comes this summer in the restoration process. We expect to really move the team forward this summer."
On keeping Jerami Grant at the trade deadline: "There was a tremendous amount of interest in Jerami. Teams just didn’t have enough to get him. We just weren’t going to give the guy away. A 27-, 28-year-old versatile wing player in the NBA, on that contract, is hard to find. We just weren’t parting with Jerami just to part with him. But in the restoration process, we can’t have a total cattle call. We need some good veteran players to help them grow, and we see Jerami as one of those players that can continue to help these young guys grow. So as we continue to restore, whether it’s Jerami or anybody else, we’ll have good mix of young payers with some veteran presence."
On his plans for recent trade acquisition Marvin Bagley III: "He’s a young man that we like. We wanted to bring him in and see how he fit with the group, but our plans are to continue working with Marvin and grow him and hopefully he can move forward with us in the future. That’s the plan, for him to be with us. We’re excited about the talent and we’re excited about him moving forward with the group. (In his debut) last night, the guy just had one practice (with us) and was trying to feel his way, but I thought he had some nice moments. But when he’s comfortable, we expect to see his talent really pop on the floor for us."
On Cade Cunningham's rookie season: "Cade has done a tremendous job thus far. He’s just coming back from a hip injury and still trying to get 100 percent with that, but we expect to continue to see his growth. Flashes of brilliance of how good he can be. The second half of the season after the break, really looking forward to him growing and continuing to push us forward. He’s the lynchpin of the restoration."
On the players at the top of the 2022 draft: "There are eight guys that I really like that I’m looking at. But the top four is a really good crop again. So if that’s where we land, we’ll be excited about adding another good young player to our mix."