Admission: I have developed a mild fascination with the Detroit Pistons’ backup small forward over the past few years. It’s a roster spot that’s constantly been in flux and for the most part resulted in “one and done” tenures. Darvin Ham, Maurice Evans, Carlos Delfino… for one reason or another, none of them have done enough to cement their role behind ironman Tayshaun Prince.
Credit GM Joe Dumars for not standing pat and shipping these guys out once they’ve proved expendable, but at the same time he’s the one who brought them in and he’s the one who’s still tasked with finding the right guy. After trading Delfino to the Toronto Raptors over the summer for a few second-round picks, Dumars threw another dart at the SF board by signing the 10th overall pick of the ’03 draft, Jarvis Hayes, to a modest one-year contract that basically amounts to a well-paid tryout. A more-than-capable scorer with a sweet shooting stroke, Hayes struggled to stay healthy in Washington, and the team basically decided to give up on him and let him walk. A perfect reclamation project for Dumars and the Pistons.
Jarvis Hayes Photo Credit: Icon SMI
He hasn’t missed a game yet. He’s shooting a career-best 44.5% FG through 67 games. He fits in well with his easygoing teammates. He grants interview requests (at least for us). He seems happy in Detroit and would likely sign an extension if it was offered. But will it be? Hayes has been a severe defensive liability against most any player with an above-average talent of driving to the hole. His offense is incredibly erratic; when he gets the ball, 8 times out of 10 he’s going to shoot the ball. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not so much. And is he really over his troublesome knee problems?
That’s Hayes in a nutshell. But, really, my intent here was to simply recognize the tear he’s been on (if you can actually call a hot shooting streak over just two games a “tear”). I already touched on his unconscious Sunday afternoon against the Hornets (29 points, including 7 three-pointers, on 77% FG), and he followed it up last night by lighting up the Denver Nuggets, who honestly are sporting one of the worst team defenses right now that I’ve seen all season. In 20 minutes of action Hayes was on fire, especially relative to him: 6-10 FG, 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 three-pointers. He looks confident shooting the ball, which has not always been the case this year.
Hayes is nothing more than a role player on the Pistons; I get that. But his performance and ability to knock down open shots will be crucial during Detroit’s upcoming playoff run. If he can come even close to replicating these past few efforts in May, it’s obviously going to make this team much more difficult to handle. The Pistons’ starters have encountered some very ugly, very prolonged shooting slumps in recent playoffs, a byproduct of fatigue, excellent defensive schemes, and just simply missing shots at the wrong time. It happens. When it does happen—and it will again at some point—Hayes has to be able to come in off the bench and provide some offense. It’s this challenge his backup SF predecessors failed at. And it’s this challenge that will ultimately go a long ways towards determining if Detroit has another “one and doner” or not.