The Los Angeles Lakers are signing forward Nigel Hayes of G League’s Westchester to a 10-day contract, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 18, 2018
It was recently reported that the Lakers are signing former Wisconsin Badger and current Westchester Knick Nigel Hayes to a 10-day contract. Hayes has played the most games of any G-League player this season and had a long four year career at Wisconsin, giving us plenty of film and data to understand who he is and what he’ll be bringing to LA.
One major area to address for LA is their shooting. Having a SF/PF type player that would fit alongside Kyle Kuzma and replace Corey Brewer that would bring more shooting to the bench. And Hayes looks like he’s that guy (just like Jamil Wilson would have been if the Lakers signed him as they were originally rumored to).
Nigel has shot 44% so far this season on a sample 0f 150 shots. He’s shot 51% on open catch and shoot 3s and 47% on guarded catch and shoot 3s, and 0/4 on pull up 3s.
Hayes is shooting lights out so far this season, but it wasn’t that way in college. He still had decent shooting on a large enough sample each of his Sophomore through Senior years (0 3s freshman year), but nothing like we’re seeing this season.
A steady upward trend is nice to see from Hayes on his guarded shooting. One might say he’s grown into his role as a shooter and gotten more comfortable as time has gone on.
His open shooting is more of an enigma.
But Hayes is more than just a shooter. Throughout his time at Wisconsin and his time as a pro, Hayes has always had a tendency to take his man down low and do work in the post. 34%, 23%, 26%, and 31% of his possessions in his four years at Wisconsin were spend on post ups, respectively.
At Westchester, that frequency has dropped to 13%, but Nigel’s post game is still his third most frequent play type. At 6’8″, he’s the height of a SF. But he has a strong base and the play types of a PF. He might even be able to play some small ball 5.
Along with his post ups, Hayes will isolate (13%) and pick and pop (7%). But he spots up just as much as he isolates, picks and pops, and posts up combined. Hayes top usage, which wasn’t the case in college, has been as a spot up player.
When Hayes catches, he either shoots or passes. Nigel isn’t a player that will attack a closeout and pull up or get to the rim often. He’s close to the bottom in the G-League in terms of frequency at those two things. So we shouldn’t expect him to be attacking off of drives. And when he has, his points per possession pulling up is only better than 7% of G-League players, and his efficiency at the rim is only better than 5%.
What Hayes will do is catch and shoot, and he’s darn good at it. His overall catch and shoot points per possession efficiency is better than 94% of the G-League at 1.197 PPP. That’s better than any Laker, and would be 28th in the NBA if he could hold that same efficiency in the big leagues.
He can stretch the floor with his shooting and bang down low, but doesn’t operate as a driver often (or well). He’s not going to run the pick and roll at all either. For those reasons, I think Hayes’ best use is likely as a combo big man. His usage percentage also rivals that of KCP or Lonzo, so he’s not a high possession guy that’ll need to adjust to a role player role.
Hayes’ strong base makes him a candidate to be able to hold his own in the post defensively, which will be an asset. I was able to see lots of Hayes at Wisconsin due to my interest in their scheme. He was a great defender, and the data matches that. He’s not a guy you can easily move, and also moves okay laterally. He’ll likely be alright defending 3s-5s on the perimeter but might struggle against quicker players.
His data in the G-League is not flattering, but opponents have shot 55% on unguarded 3-pointers that were attributed to Hayes. We know from several studies, including this one from Nylon Calculus, that individual defenders don’t have much impact on the 3-point percentage of players they face. So when someone is incredibly unlucky and it’s counted against them in that way, we need to account for that rather than just looking at Hayes’ 23rd percentile defense and assuming he’s a bad defender. When we normalize that 3-point rate, Hayes is a 51st percentile defender in the G-League this season. Not fantastic, but not too bad either. That should address his poor spot up defensive numbers.
But Hayes has struggled defending at the rim as well, where he’s in the 18th percentile and has the worst data on his team. He’s also in the 16th percentile defending the post (albeit on a small number of possessions) and 15th percentile defending in isolation. Hayes has been good defending pick and pops and pick and roll ball handlers.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Hayes is an interesting fit both offensively and defensively due to his offensive efficiencies and frequencies and his defensive efficiencies, but I see him fitting in well. Offensively he can take advantage of mismatches in the post as well as spacing the floor. He just isn’t a great creator with the ball in his hands and likely won’t contribute playing a traditional wing type role.
I can also say Hayes is someone that plays well fundamentally. He’ll box out and set good screens and do little things right that help teams win games, even if they don’t show up in the box score.
“I think it’s good that the Lakers are exploring this market and sifting through G-League players with potential to be long term adds if they show enough potential. They did this last year with David Nwaba (*sheds single tear*) who is proving to be a viable rotation player in Chicago this year. I’d much prefer they continue to use the 15th roster spot in this manner than by having a veteran player who rarely plays or whose utility is tied more to his teaching/mentoring than what he can provide on the floor or offer in the form of long term potential.
That said, I think it’s always wise to look at these players as what they are — fringe NBA players until they actually show otherwise. I think it’s easy to see news that “the Lakers are signing player X” and then get excited about the prospect of how that guy’s skill set translates to actual games or how he can help the team. But, the reality is players like this rarely become contributors and if they do it’s just as likely to be on another team because they’re only on the roster for 10-20 days and, even if they stick beyond that, they’re often looked at as the most replaceable guys on the roster because their pedigree is “G-League” player (*sheds another tear for Nwaba*).”