Shaka Smart has figured out how to pump out big men to the NBA since arriving in Austin in 2016. He helped get Jarrett Allen drafted in 2017 by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. The next year, former 5-star Mo Bamba was snatched up by the Orlando Magic with the No. 6 pick.
This year, freshman Jaxson Hayes is drawing NBA buzz.
The 6-foot-11, 220-pounder has averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in just over 23 minutes a game. His presence has been felt most around the rim, as he blocks 2.3 shots a contest and shoots 73 percent from two.
Entering Thursday night’s Big XII Tournament quarterfinal with No. 17 Kansas (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2), he’s not only looking to help the Longhorns clinch an NCAA Tournament bid. He’s got a chance to boost his NBA Draft profile and stock in front of a national audience.
Let’s take a dive into his prognostications, as well as mock drafts and big boards.
Jaxson Hayes NBA Draft Projections & Mock Draft
Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype featured Hayes in his most recent aggregate mock draft, moving him into the lottery with the No. 12 pick.
Hayes leads the NCAA in effective field goal percentage (75.0 percent) and he also has the best player efficiency rating in the Big 12. According to our research at Synergy Sports, he has been the most efficient player (minimum: 160 possessions) among all Division-I players in the regular season.
He is ready for the next level of competition given the productivity he has had in pick-and-roll action. Hayes has scored 3.2 points per game as the roll man on PnR sets, which trails only five D1 players. Among those with more than 35 opportunities, per Synergy, the big man has been the most efficient player on this play type.
Our own Jon Adams has the Detroit Pistons picking him at No. 15 in his most recent NBA Mock Draft. Jeremy Woo of SI.com lists him as the No. 20 overall prospect on his mock draft. While definitely a project, Hayes earns praise for his defensive acumen.
Although he’s inarguably a bit of a project, Hayes’s defensive play has been stellar, especially impressive for a true freshman who entered college with zero hype. He’s mobile, light on his feet and a talented shot-blocker with exceptional timing who should be able to pack on muscle comfortably as he matures. That alone should be enough for a team to take a flier toward the back of the first round, even though his defensive rebounding has been inconsistent and sometimes poor, and his offensive skill set is rudimentary.
Jaxson Hayes NBA Draft Big Board Rankings
Aran Smith’s NBA Draft Net pegs Hayes as a mid-first round option as his No. 19 overall prospect. He also pegged Hayes for the No. 19 pick to the Utah Jazz.
ESPN’s Draft Board has him as the No. 1 center and No. 10 player overall.
– Excellent physical profile with a 7-3 wingspan and a big standing reach. Big hands. Terrific frame. Fluid athlete who is highly coordinated and quick off his feet finishing lobs or protecting the rim. Beats opposing big men down the court regularly.
– Near automatic finisher around the basket. Catches everything. Dunks everything. Has terrific potential as a pick-and-roll finisher and vertical spacer. Also an excellent shot-blocker. Has the agility to switch ball screens down the road.
– Severely late bloomer. Grew late, barely played in high school. Trajectory gives him significant potential for long-term growth. Lauded for his intangibles. Father played and coached in NFL, mother was a star basketball player at Drake.
The positives were qualified, as ESPN also says “he lacks experience in a significant way.”
Expect his stock to continue rising if he contains or shuts down Jayhawk forward Dedric Lawson to help Texas reach the semifinals.