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2020-21 Pelicans Season in Review: Jaxson Hayes

  • Age 21
  • Experience Two seasons (two with Pelicans)
  • Games Played/Games Started 60/3

For many NBA players, a clutch basket, a big defensive stop or a hard-fought rebound might serve as a memorable turning point in a given season. For Hayes in 2020-21, it was getting midseason bench splinters. From Jan. 29 through March 1, Hayes was a DNP-coach’s decision 11 times out of 18 New Orleans games. Following that span of inactivity, he emerged as a different player, the Pelicans’ most improved performer over the course of the 72-game season.

“Being benched is kind of what made things click,” Hayes said of what led to him dramatically improving in the second half of the campaign. “I’ve got to make sure I come to work every day and be professional about everything, make sure I’m getting that in every day and getting better.”

Behind Steven Adams and Willy Hernangomez on the depth chart, the benching served as motivation for Hayes, who was not pleased by the demotion, but used the time sidelined to reflect on his approach and preparation.

    Jaxson Hayes Key Stats from 2020-21 NBA Season

  • PTS Per Game 7.5
  • REB Per Game 4.3
  • Field Goal % 62.5
  • Free Throw % 77.5

“At first, you’re going to be pissed, like anyone’s going to be,” Hayes said of being the third-string center. “And then you have to start thinking of the reasons why this happened and look at yourself. I took that time to look at myself, and look at my game, what I was doing differently, what I wasn’t doing, and just make some changes.”

That shift led to Hayes compiling the best month of his brief NBA career in May, when he averaged 13.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. He closed the slate with six consecutive games of double-digit scoring, including 19 points apiece at Philadelphia and Golden State. With several key teammates out of the lineup, Hayes expanded his offensive arsenal, adding floaters and even going 3/3 from three-point range at Memphis. Previously, the lion’s share of his offense had come via opportunistic dunks, tip-ins and layups.

“These games are really important, especially getting used to doing different things, playing in the pick-and-roll while some of the other guys are out,” Hayes said of the late-season stretch. “I’m trying to do as much as I can, doing the stuff I work on each day, so I’m not in that little box anymore, just sitting down there in the dunker spot.”

“Jaxson did a phenomenal job,” Adams said of the Texas product’s strides in Year 2. “Just his comfort offensively, as well as defensively. He was getting it down pat, his rotations.”

Hayes wants to use the offseason to improve his shot and work on his body, adding more of the “right weight” and strength that won’t curtail his elite athleticism. “My game has grown a lot,” he said. “Obviously we’re not where we want to be – in the playoffs – so that’s down, but my game personally has gone up.”

Jaxson Hayes | By The Numbers

  • 338

    Points Hayes scored after the All-Star break, averaging 9.7 points in 35 games. Prior to the midseason hiatus, Hayes only notched 111 points, averaging 4.4 points in 25 games. He shot 81 percent from the foul line after All-Star, compared to only 66 percent prior to it.

  • 71

    Dunks for Hayes in his sophomore NBA season, out of his 175 baskets, according to Basketball Reference. That provides an excellent comparison point to his rookie year, when he scored 174 baskets, with 101 of those being slams. He was 6/14 from three-point range in 2020-21.

  • 5.4

    Fouls per 36 minutes during Hayes’ rookie season. He mentioned to the media numerous times in 2020-21 that a primary goal was to reduce his personal fouls, which he accomplished by cutting that number to 3.8 fouls per 36 minutes. He only committed five fouls in a game once.

Jaxson Hayes | Most Notable Games from 2020-21 NBA Season

  • #1, May 9, New Orleans 112, Charlotte 110

    Hayes was a force in the paint against the Hornets, racking up 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. The latter set a career high, doubling the number of swats he had in any other game this season. He also approached his season highs in points (19) and rebounds (10).

  • #2, March 14, New Orleans 135, LA Clippers 115

    It’s impossible to be more efficient than Hayes was in this ESPN-televised victory over the Western Conference’s No. 4 seed. Hayes was 6/6 from the field and 5/5 at the foul line, spearheading an excellent night by the bench with 17 points. He added a block and steal.

  • #3, March 23, New Orleans 128, LA Lakers 111

    It’s impossible to be more efficient than Hayes was in this ESPN-televised victory over the Western Conference’s No. 4 seed. Hayes was 6/6 from the field and 5/5 at the foul line, spearheading an excellent night by the bench with 17 points. He added a block and steal.

Sourced from Pelicans

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