#3 The Charlotte Hornets take a swing on Jaxson Hayes
Charlotte’s big-man rotation of the future appears to be set with Mark Williams and Nick Richards already on the roster. Yet, the opportunity to acquire and develop Jaxson Hayes may prove to be too enticing for the Hornets’ front office.
Hayes, 23, has just completed his fourth year in the NBA. Unfortunately, the New Orleans Pelicans rim-runner failed to make much of an impact and had the worst statistical season of his career thus far. When healthy and engaged, Hayes is a tough matchup for opposing benches, utilizing his strength and explosiveness to pressure the rim on offense. On defense, Hayes is still incredibly raw.
Despite his 6’11”, 220lb fame, Hayes has rarely been seen as a rim protector. Instead, the young big man finds himself guarding down positions rather than operating in drop coverage or executing as a weak-side shot blocker. Hayes is a solid defensive rebounder, although that isn’t a primary area of need for a Hornets team that ranked 9th in the NBA for rebounds per game last season.
Hayes has upside, though. If you can acquire him for a fraction of the Mid-Level Exception, and proceed to develop him into a reliable bench big who provides an impact on both sides of the floor, then you suddenly have another cost-controlled trade chip further down the line. Steve Clifford could play Hayes as the third big in the team’s rotation, allowing him and Richards to fight for the primary backup spot in a battle that would hopefully force both players to raise their games.
He wouldn’t be the ideal pick-up, but if the Hornets are looking to build with patience and intelligence, adding a young big that could still pop makes total sense, especially if he accepts a low-ball contract offer.