By Kings.com Fan Correspondent Alex Kramers
Past: Chuck Hayes, who spent the past six years with the Houston Rockets, is among the shortest centers in the League at 6-foot-6, but it hasn’t stopped the Modesto native from establishing himself as one of the best defenders at his position in the NBA.
An incredibly hard worker, Hayes makes it difficult for opposing players to get position in the paint and routinely out-rebounds bigger centers. In 2010-11, the Sacramento Kings newest addition finished 13th in the League in offensive rebounds (219), ninth in offensive rebound rate (11.9) and 18th in total rebound rate (16.3). Among all players 6-foot-6 or shorter who’ve played at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Hayes is second in career rebound rate (16.4), behind only Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley.
Last season, Hayes improved his all-around game, establishing career highs in scoring (7.9 points per game), rebounds (8.1), assists (2.7 – second-highest among centers), steals (1.1) and blocks (0.7) in 28.1 minutes of action. Correspondingly, Houston’s three most successful lineups, in terms of plus/minus, included the University of Kentucky product in the middle.
In a sign of his continued ascent, Hayes increased his rebounds and assists per game in each of the final four months of the season, while maintaining a constant scoring average (9.2 points). He notched 8.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in January, 9.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in February, 10 rebounds and 3.8 assists in March and 11.1 rebounds and 4 assists in April.
On March 23, Hayes recorded his first career triple-double, dropping 13 points, 14 rebounds and a career-best 11 assists in a win over the Golden State Warriors.
Present: The 28-year-old center is the type of player who teammates, coaches and fans alike praise and appreciate for his ability to outrebound and frustrate opposing big men. Hayes is renowned for doing many of the intangibles to help his team win – using his toughness to fight for low-post position, setting hard screens and denying entry passes. His quickness and strength allow him to guard smaller players and deny penetration to the basket, as well as protect the rim against bigger centers.
“I don’t know how I do it,” Hayes told The New York Times in 2010. “I use my strength. Maybe you should give me a little bit of credit. Maybe I do have a splash of athleticism. Just a little bit, you know?”
Future: The new Kings center oft scores on put-backs and cuts to the basket. An efficient passer from the low block who possesses a high basketball IQ, Hayes had one of the lowest turnover rates at his position (13.1). Teaming up with fellow Wildcat Cousins, the pair will form one of the League’s best passing big men duo, as well as Sacramento’s finest frontcourt playmaking group since Chris Webber and Vlade Divac.
Cut by Houston as a rookie, Hayes used the setback as motivation to earn co-captain honors with the Rockets four years later. He provides instant leadership and experience – having played in 26 Playoff games. In a return to his Northern California roots, he’ll also teach his new teammates how to make a sizable impact on both ends of the court.