Dwane Casey: Killian Hayes ‘Heard the Noise’ and Responded with 4th Quarter Dominance

Killian Hayes had the moment of his NBA life on Thursday against Dallas.

The 21-year-old point guard dropped 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to help the Detroit Pistons outlast the Mavericks 131-125. Hayes’ late takeover is a part of the momentum he’s built over the last few weeks. Over Detroit’s last 13 games. Hayes is knocking down 37.5 percent of his long-distance shots and 48 percent of his midrange looks, according to NBA.com.

“It feels good,” Hayes said, per The Athletic. “to be in a sport where things start working for you.

Hayes is averaging 12.1 points and 5.9 assists per game over that same span. It’s a positive development for a young player who is still looking to break out and showcase why the Pistons selected him seventh in the 2021 NBA Draft. Over the summer, the Detroit coaching staff and shooting consultants helped Hayes change his jump-shot release.

Although the results of that offseason work to improve his game weren’t immediate, Hayes ultimately trusted his work and kept stacking good days so he could have strong stretches as he has over the last 13 games. For any hooper selected that high in the draft facing the kind of scrutiny slow-burning lottery picks like Hayes deal with, it would be understandable if his confidence wavered, even on the nights he had solid outings.

“He heard the noise,” Dwane Casey said. “It’s unfortunate that we have the internet, for that reason. He heard the noise. I wish he had my mentality. I don’t even look at it. He probably felt like he had to score, and he doesn’t. He’s our best playmaker. He’s our best point guard. He’s the best defender on the point guards. That’s what we need from him first.”

Hayes’ recent stretch can help him grow beyond what he’s become through the first two seasons of his career, Detroit’s best passer and point-of-attack defender. Yes, those abilities are essential, and having talented players with that kind of role is crucial to team success and staying power in the League. But those are also skills that are easy to look over on a team led by exciting players like Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Saddiq Bey.

“The things he does, the intangibles, he doesn’t have to score to impact the game,” Bey said. “When he does score, it’s icing on the cake.”

“No matter what the perception on the outside is, what he gets with us in film sessions and practice, we continue to tell him to play his game. We know how much he contributes, and it might not always show up on the stat sheet. Like I said before, him just scoring and showing more of what he can do on a broader scale just helps everybody. Everyone inside knows what he brings to the table.”

The next step for Hayes will be to prove that his hot streak is sustainable beyond three weeks. He’s also gotta improve his finishing at the rim. He doesn’t have to be a finished product at 21-years-old, but over the past month, he’s shown that he’s growing into a better play.

Casey believes that Hayes is “growing at the right pace at the right time.” As the head coach of the Pistons and the person most responsible for utilizing Hayes in the best possible way, his faith and patience in Hayes will go a long way to determine Hayes’ career success.

“He’s not growing on anyone else’s watch. He’s going at his pace, his speed,” Casey said. “That’s what young players do. Everyone wants him to be that 10-year vet, but what, he’s in Year 3? That’s why it’s not surprising me. We just have to be patient. Unfortunately, this league isn’t full of patience. It’s about winning games. But he is growing right before our eyes.”