One of the more intriguing players on the Los Angeles Lakers roster is big man Jaxson Hayes, a 23-year-old who was the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and is still unproven after leaving the New Orleans Pelicans.
Hayes enters the fold behind Anthony Davis, who has spent the majority of his time at center, but there has been some uncertainty on whether he wants to log the starting center minutes heading into next season. But, adding Hayes early in the free agency process was building upon the big man group to alleviate some pressure of Davis playing the center.
Now that the Lakers have also added Christian Wood recently, there is a little more diversity amongst the three big men on the roster. At Lakers Media Day, Hayes spoke about that mix of skillsets and how he fits alongside Wood and Davis.
“I feel like all three of us are just very tall, athletic, skilled bigs, but we all kind of do our thing a little bit different,” Hayes said. “Like, I’m more pick and roll big, Christian [Wood] can definitely space the floor and shoot the ball well and then AD is just very well-rounded. So, I feel like all three of us bring our own thing to the table, so I’m really excited to get out here with this group. Definitely, a more versed group at the big position than I’ve normally been around, so I’m really excited about that.”
Hayes also gave some insight into the free agency conversations that led to him signing with L.A.
“Rob [Pelinka] and coach Ham called me as soon as free agency started. They were telling me they wanted another big to complement with AD and they were going to bring in two more bigs and they wanted me to be one of those bigs. They felt that their guards and me would be really well in the pick-and-roll and so, I agreed with that. And I also agreed with how I feel like I could have fit their system and how I can fit their system this year. So, I feel like that was kind of the biggest reasons for me coming here.”
The 23-year-old has showcased his athleticism with his highlight slam dunks and blocks, but he believes that he is athletic and quick enough to hold his own if he has to step out on the perimeter.
“I’m really comfortable with that. I mean, Big 12 first-team defense, I like playing defense. That’s something I really like to do, I mean I don’t mind switching on the guards, I don’t mind having to guard the paint and block shots. So, I’m really cool with whatever coach Ham has for that game we’ve talked about switching up for different games this year and we’ve already talked about that some. I’m just ready to do whatever he tells me to do.”
With Wood showcasing his offensive capabilities, it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll get the backup minutes over Hayes. But, with a new situation with the Lakers, Hayes gets to show what he can do during training camp this week.
Throughout his 241 games with the Pelicans, Hayes only averaged 7.5 points, 4 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 16.8 minutes. L.A. has been able to get some production out of young prospects like Malik Monk, who signed on a veteran minimum and earned himself a payday the following summer with the Sacramento Kings.
Time will tell if Hayes will be able to solidify himself as a part of the rotation this upcoming season and prove that a fresh start is all he needs.
Davis believes Wood and Hayes complement him very well
It has been shown that the Lakers go as far as Davis goes and managing him through the regular season is vital. Bringing in capable centers to alleviate that workload is the key and Davis believes Wood and Hayes complement him well, similar to the 2019-20 big men.
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