After averaging a career high in numbers across the board for the Houston Rockets last season, the Kings “big” free agent splash of Chuck Hayes was met with universal disappointment on both sides of the coin this year.
After agreeing to a contract, only to have his contract voided after the Kings medical staff feared heart issues, the Kings eventually did sign the Modesto Junior College product once doctors from the Cleveland Clinic found no heart problems – the Kings giving Hayes an extra million dollars as a “we’re sorry” offering. So while the hefty forward didn’t encounter any serious cardiac issues as was once feared, he did deal with a nasty shoulder injury which put its stamp all over Hayes’ season.
Outside of a very poor 2008, Hayes certainly has the worst year of his professional career for the Kings, shooting a sub-par 42% after putting up 52% last season while playing nearly ten minutes more per game. His rebounding rate, both offensively and defensively, were the lowest of his seven year career as were his steals and blocks – not exactly the things the Kings brass and fans had hoped for from a defensive anchor.
In addition to the actual box score elements, Hayes’ ratings were down across the board – offensively having a rating of 120 and 108 the past two seasons, this year only managing a 98 while on the defensive side of the ball he maintained a 109, a rating that has declined ever year (the higher, the worse the rating).
With that all said, despite the down season, all isn’t doom and gloom for the Kings – assuming they know how to fix the problem. I was a big fan of the Hayes addition (and still am) as I think his defensive play was very much needed from the Kings as was his leadership, both on and off floor. Unfortunately for the Kings, the coaching staff didn’t exactly use Hayes’ strengths and more or less isolated his on the defensive end with their schemes, or better yet, lack of.
There’s no doubt Hayes, individually, is one of the better big man defenders in the NBA, despite his size. And while he may be on a natural decline in terms of his defensive prowess, he’s still in the top handful even though he looked very average during this past season. His injured shoulder combined with being slightly out of shape didn’t help matters this season, but given the overall poor defense of the Kings roster, Hayes was continually playing at a disadvantage.
All in all, it was a pretty down year for Hayes and not the first impression he wanted to make in purple and black, but with three more seasons remaining on his contract, there is plenty of time for him to show the abilities the netted him the large contract and interest in free agency.
Season Grade: C-