It’s no secret that Jaxson Hayes has been highly valued by the New Orleans Pelicans since they swapped picks with the Atlanta Hawks in 2019 to draft the raw talent out of the University of Texas.
Hayes entered the league with a tantalizing mixture of length, athleticism, and physical gifts that instantly drew the attention of fans.
First there was the Summer League. Jaxson scored 28 points, with eight dunks in 20 minutes, including this absolute murder.
In his first regular season game, facing the Golden State Warriors, he entered the big stage with a bang. Jaxson became the first rookie in NBA history to shoot better than 80 percent from the floor on at least 11 field goal attempts in their debut. The first blocked shot of his career was on Steph Curry.
After early season injuries to Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors, “Sideshow Jax” was thrown into the starting lineup only 13 games into his rookie season.
He responded by posting a double-double in his first start, with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocked shots in a win over those same Warriors.
The sky seemed to be the limit.
Fast forward to November of 2021.
Currently, Jaxson Hayes is averaging career-lows in points (6.1), minutes (13.1), FG% (.486), and rebounds (4.0).
He hasn’t reached double-figures in any game this season in either points or rebounds and he has as many turnovers as blocked shots (7).
His lack of effectiveness has forced the Pelicans to look elsewhere for frontcourt production, even with the massive void left by the absence of Williamson.
Far too much of the burden has fallen on Jonas Valanciunas. While JV has been the Pelicans’ most dependable and consistent player to start the season, he’s also playing a career-high 34.3 minutes per game.
That’s nearly a 22 percent increase over his previous high of 28.3 set just last season.
Hayes should have plenty of minutes available to him at either the power forward or center spots, but his overall lack of basketball instincts have made him too much of a variable for a team playing each night with a razor thin margin for error.
Whether he’s failing to box out effectively, communicate on the back end of the defense, or if he’s committing an unnecessary foul, Hayes continues to show that he isn’t ready to be counted on.
Bigs can take time to develop in the NBA, particular ones with as limited experience as Hayes started with.
However, Jaxson my not have that much time remaining. At least not in New Orleans.
Another disastrous season could lead to a front office and/or roster shakeup. Hayes would be a prime candidate to be moved under either circumstance.
There’s an old saying, “potential will get you fired.”
If Jaxson Hayes doesn’t start living up to his potential this season; it may not be a question of if potential will get someone fired, but rather of who it gets fired.
Is Hayes the next Tyson Chandler, or even the next JaVale McGee? Or is Jaxson the next in a line of failed projects?
It’s time for all of us to find out.