The landscape of the National Basketball Association is not really littered with 6-foot-6-inch centers who have no real scoring ability but can somehow keep a job. That’s why the Curious Case of Chuck Hayes is so, well, curious. He defies the general thinking of the NBA since he’s not that athletic and not that tall. In this day and age, when the NBA has yearned for more spacing, Hayes is a throwback to a bygone era. He's a defense-first, gritty, and hard-nosed player who has carved out a healthy career for himself despite his shortcomings. As the newest member of the team, it’s only right to give him his day in the sun with an all-new Film Room.
When looking at the career of Chuck Hayes, it’s extremely prudent to remember that statistics aren’t everything. At least not from a counting stats perspective – i.e. points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. The impact that Hayes makes on the floor isn’t really seen in his averages or totals for a season. After all, he only played in 29 games and totaled 255 minutes as a member of the Toronto Raptors last season. In fact, he’s only played a grand total of 1009 minutes over the last two seasons. So how does a guy who averages just 11.2 minutes per game over the last two seasons make an impact? By being tougher than his opponent.
Hayes only averaged 1.7 points per game and 1.8 rebounds per game last year. Over the last two seasons, he’s averaging 2.0 points and 2.9 rebounds. However, that toughness he brings sets him apart from his peers. The 6-foot-6-inch center plays harder than his man and plays meaner than his man. He competes for every inch of space on that court and relinquishes zero ground to guys who are perceived to be bigger than him. Size is only an aspect but fundamentals are the most important thing and that’s where Hayes lives; the fundamental world. While some are larger, he’s firmer and sturdier. He might not be spry, but Chuck Hayes provides consistency in areas the Los Angeles Clippers have been lacking lately; defensive intelligence and grit.
In the 255 minutes he played for the Raptors last season, Hayes managed a 104.6 Defensive Rating whenever he stepped foot on the court. Without him, the Raptors were at 104.9. It was, essentially, a wash. Two years ago, however, Hayes played 575 minutes with the Raptors and the team had a 100.3 Defensive Rating with him on the court compared to a 103.1 rating without him. Even prior to his time in Toronto, Hayes managed a 100.9 Defensive Rating in 179 minutes with the Sacramento Kings back in 2013-14. Without him on the court, the Kings sputtered to a 106.5 rating. Most of those numbers don’t tell the full story since (a) it’s a small sample size with Hayes on the court compared to a huge sample size with him off the court and (b) there’s no adequate measure of Hayes’ raw worth defensively with numbers like these thrown a tad out of context.
Seems weird to even utter but you can actually find comprehensive video on the internet of the defensive prowess displayed by Chuck Hayes. There’s a video of him stymying Amar’e Stoudemire back from 2010, as well as a video of him giving Kevin Garnett all sorts of fits in 2011. Heck, there’s even one of him having a triple-double against the Golden State Warriors from March of 2011. There’s another one of Hayes competing in a college dunk contest and sorta .. kinda .. maybe .. dunking? Either way, it seems safe to say that Chuck Hayes is an internet legend. Unfortunately, internet legend doesn’t get you far. What gets you far is the ability to be a competent player in the limited minutes you are given. Hayes is that. With all things considered, he rebounds decently, is a solid passer, crashes the offensive glass, uses his low center of gravity extremely well as a post defender, boxes out, and generally gives you consistent hustle minutes due to his exceptional hardworking nature.
You’re excused if you missed this game. To be frank, a lot of people probably did considering it was north of the border and it featured two teams most people don’t really take a vested interest in. It’s midway through the second quarter and the Sacramento Kings run a simple 1-5 pick-and-roll against the Toronto Raptors. The ball-handler on this play is Ramon Sessions. He receives a solid little screen from DeMarcus Cousins and tries to turn the corner. Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry stays on the hip of Sessions as he runs across the top of the screen. Chuck Hayes sees the initial action and immediately plays for both the roll and the drive here. He stays upright enough to deflect any pass over the top but then gets his hands low the second Cousins enters his peripheral vision. That’s one of those things that you can teach people but a select few pick it up well enough to be effective.
Lowry does a good job of recovering and forcing Sessions into a jump pass that still somehow finds its way over the top of Hayes and into the hands of Cousins. The Kings big man takes one dribble after being so far underneath the hoop and tries to go up the other side. However, that doesn’t work since Hayes is there to reject him and a tussle ensues for the ball that ultimately sees it trickle out of bounds. On this play, you see what can make Hayes effective despite his lack of size and length. He played the roll well, the passing lanes well, and still forced an All-Star player into a tough shot before rejecting him. Hayes is simply there to make the opponent’s life a living hell.
A few minutes later, we get a glimpse at yet another way Hayes can affect a play and opposing teams. The Kings run a pick-and-roll between Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. The primary defender on this play as far as Gay is concerned is James Johnson. Johnson fights over the top of the screen because he knows he has help on the potential roll in the form of Hayes. Instead of rolling, Cousins stands near the arc and Gay has to pass off to Ben McLemore. As soon as the ball finds its way over to McLemore on the opposite wing, Hayes slowly starts to creep down into the paint. When McLemore begins his drive towards the baseline, Patrick Patterson slides over to help DeMar DeRozan. Hayes sees this and shuffles over to cut off any potential pass to Patterson’s man, Carl Landry. As McLemore dribbles the ball in the corner area, Patterson recovers back and Hayes passes Landry back to Patterson. The second Hayes does that, he sprints towards the free throw line area and back towards his man. McLemore thinks he has an open passing lane back to Cousins only to have Hayes dart in and steal the pass before deflecting it out of bounds.
In the matter of a mere seconds, Hayes did multiple things here that led to a partial stop. He helped on the pick-and-roll enough to force a pass to the opposite side, ducked down onto a teammate’s man when the teammate rotated over to help another teammate, passed the teammate’s man back to said teammate when the teammate came back into the fold, and then recovered quickly enough to take away a passing lane and deflect the ball away. It was, essentially, a play that took roughly about eight seconds from pick-and-roll to the ball being knocked out of bounds. What isn’t shown is that after the Kings inbounded the ball, Hayes then rejected a driving attempt by Gay and ended the possession entirely. He made a huge difference in this sequence because of his intelligence and positioning.
It’s also best to keep in mind that Chuck Hayes has the offensive repertoire of a beaten up Studebaker. You’re not going to dump the ball into him down low and have him get you a bucket. You’re not going to run many pick-and-rolls with him and have him catch the ball and finish. The primary offensive function of Hayes is to set solid screens and do the dirty work. This play is no different. It’s nearly midway through the final quarter as the Raptors visit the Miami Heat. The Raptors are pushing the ball in transition and Kyle Lowry kicks it over to Lou Williams who throws up this godawful floater that makes Austin Rivers look like Tony Parker. During all of this, Hayes is just sprinting down the court and bringing his man with him. Williams beats Dwyane Wade off the dribble and is met by a half-hearted rotational defensive effort from Chris Andersen. The floater goes up and Chuck Hayes is there for the easy putback as the only deterrent is Goran Dragic. Two points go Toronto’s way.
It’s not every day you get to watch two big men move in solid unison but we get that on this play. The possession starts out with Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez backing down Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker on the low block. He takes a couple dribbles as the moving parts on the play start to get into position. Hayes cuts near the free throw line and creates an angle for pass. This leads his man, Bismack Biyombo, to step up and vacate the rim area. Biyombo is a good rim protector so getting him to leave that part of the floor wide open is always a plus for an offense. But what happens here is that Biyombo is left out to dry because Marvin Williams comes over to double team Vasquez. Due to the double team, it forces Biyombo to have to make a decision he wasn’t ready for. Biyombo passes Tyler Hansbrough off to an imaginary defender and that was the downfall for the Hornets. Hayes receives the pass at the free throw line, kicks it down to Hansbrough on a bounce pass, and Psycho T dunks over Gerald Henderson and gets some modicum of revenge for a college incident years ago between the two.
Earlier on, there was evidence of Hayes’ ability to create some havoc defensively with his movement in the pick-and-roll and just general court awareness. While that’s all well and good, Hayes makes his bones by just out-toughing you and being so low to the ground that you couldn’t move him even with the aid of a bulldozer. Never in anyone’s wildest dreams did we anticipate a ridiculously GIF-heavy article on Chuck Hayes but buckle up because you’re about to be taken down a rabbit hole of defensive mastery the likes of which is rarely gazed upon these days. It’s all from one game and, even more amazing, it’s from one ten minute stretch of basketball in a nail-biter against a Western Conference contender.
In a game that only happens once a year, the Memphis Grizzlies traveled to Canada and what transpired was a close affair that saw the tide turn in the final quarter. One of the main reasons was because of the job done by Chuck Hayes on the Memphis big men. On this play at the eight minute mark, Memphis gets the ball to All-Star center Marc Gasol near the elbow and allow him to work one-on-one against Hayes. What happens after that is a thing of dazzling basketball from both parties. Gasol faces up and throws a couple fakes at Hayes that do nothing so Gasol then makes a dribble move to his left only to get shutoff by Hayes beautifully. Gasol then throws a quick pivot shoulder fake at the block and shoots an amazingly tough turnaround baseline jumper that goes in. Gasol made this shot. But do not overlook how hard he had to actually work to even get a shot off here.
Here’s another possession roughly half-a-minute later where the Grizzlies kick the ball to Gasol at the elbow when being defended by Hayes. Yet again, Gasol tries to throw move after move at Hayes only to realize it’s not going to work. Gasol throws a jab step and then brings the ball low and through trying to draw any kind of contact. It doesn’t work. From there, Gasol goes to a similar move set from the play above. The center dribbles left, turns quickly back the other way, and tries to generate a shot. Unfortunately for Gasol, that was futile. Hayes keeps bodying Gasol all while keeping his hands off of him and making his life a nightmare. Hayes pushes Gasol all the way back out to the elbow and Gasol fumbles the ball while turning before hoisting up a shot-clock beating fadeaway one-legged jumper that somehow goes in.
The last two plays end in buckets for Marc Gasol but illustrate the problems that Chuck Hayes can create for teams in the half-court when he’s matched up against a player of similar footspeed and athleticism. Gasol has the length and size advantage which allowed him to get his shot off despite the great defense of Hayes but Chuck’s ability to use his low center of gravity and technique nullifies all the major moves Gasol hits him with. Instead, he forces Gasol into two of the lowest efficiency shots you’ll see all year. One was a baseline turnaround jumper and the other was a 22-foot heave off of one leg all while a hand was in his face. Despite the shots being made, Hayes shows how much he can affect an entire possession when a team thinks he’s a pushover and attacks him with a good post player.
In what is a reoccurring theme for the Grizzlies during the fourth quarter of this game, they dump the ball into Gasol when he’s near the elbow and being guarded by the feisty Hayes. Instead of throwing a bunch of fakes and then driving only to get stifled again, Gasol decides it’s best to just face up from the get-go and hoist a tough long jumper. It doesn’t work out for the Grizzlies and a critical possession late in this game is wasted by trying to go to the well one too many times when Gasol’s success was derived from insanely difficult shots in the first place. Gasol misses the jumper but Tayshaun Prince slices in to grab the rebound and draws a foul. The last part isn’t Hayes’ problem. He did his job and did it quite well. He made life so tough on Gasol on those other two possessions that the All-Star center passed up a third chance at driving and settled for a terrible shot. This is the headache Chuck Hayes presents.
A minute later, Memphis and Toronto both switch up the assignments here. Gone is Gasol vs Hayes one-on-one. Instead, we get Hayes going against Zach Randolph in the post and it’s a dogfight. Randolph gets the ball in the block area and Hayes tries to swipe the ball out of his hands on the entry pass which forces Randolph’s hand a little bit. Randolph feels Hayes come over the top of him trying to swat at the ball and turns directly into the body of Hayes. Instead of fouling Randolph due to being overaggressive, Hayes recovers exceptionally well from the swipe by getting low and forcing Randolph towards the baseline before Randolph turns and throws up a highly contested left-handed hook shot that clangs off the backboard and rim. The rebound comes to Gasol and he tries to go back up before getting blocked by Terrence Ross. The Raptors get the ball and end the defensive possession. Memphis tried to attack Hayes multiple times only to realize it wasn’t going to fly. Hayes is shutting down arguably the top big man duo in the game today by just outworking and outthinking them.
After realizing that the constant post-ups against Hayes were fruitless, the Grizzlies changed up their gameplan late thanks to them trailing. They opt to run a 1-5 pick-and-roll with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. The Raptors actually play this quite well from the start as both Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry force Conley towards the middle of the floor. Chuck Hayes is initially guarding Zach Randolph on this play but starts to creep up in the paint when he sees Conley begin to turn the corner. Lowry rides the hip of Conley and Johnson follows Conley into the paint in an effort to block any shot that is forthcoming. However, that isn’t needed. Why? Because Hayes steps up just above the restricted area and takes a charge from Conley before the point guard can dish the ball off to Randolph. It’s a sublime defensive performance. They forced Conley where they wanted him to go and met him with a defender willing to sacrifice his body. It’s yet another play that Hayes executed magnificently.
Despite all of this, Memphis still has a shot to tie or take the lead in the waning moments. They go back to something that hasn’t worked that well but is a play they love to run. It’s a simple post-up for Zach Randolph on the opposite side of where they’ve been posting up against Chuck Hayes all fourth quarter. Here, we see Hayes play this so well that it might fool you into thinking this ball actually went in. Randolph faces up quickly, shuffles his feet, and then power dribbles towards the baseline. Hayes walls him off with his thick chest and wide base which forces Randolph into a super tough baseline pull-up jumper with Hayes’ hand in his face. Randolph misses way short and Amir Johnson snatches the rebound. In the game’s most crucial moments, Chuck Hayes locked down Memphis in more ways than one.
This was one of only 29 games Hayes played during the 2014-15 season. He scored zero points, attempted zero shots, only had one rebound, saw himself commit one foul, and dished out two assists. He didn’t record a block or a steal. The statsheet from that night says his plus-minus was a +8. We oftentimes say that plus-minus doesn’t tell a story but, in this case, I think we can say it might tell the whole story. Hayes only played ten minutes against the Grizzlies during this game but all ten minutes were in the fourth quarter and every second of those ten minutes made Memphis’ life downright miserable. Hayes battled, clawed, and willed Toronto to a win in that game despite the lack of offensive skill. He out-grit and out-grinded the masters from Memphis. That’s one of those things you thought you’d never see.
Be honest, you did not think you’d get ten Chuck Hayes GIFs when you came into this Film Room. But, lo and behold, you got them. And they were all worth it because they paint a picture of what Hayes can provide. He’s not flashy, he’s not sexy, and he’s not skilled. What he is, though, is tough. Toughness goes a long way in this game when your lack of overall skill starts to get looked at more and more. Hayes provides that toughness, that leadership, and that tenacity on the defensive end. Armed with that intelligence, prowess defensively, and never-say-die work ethic, Hayes is a valuable addition to the 2015-16 Los Angeles Clippers. While he might see just five or so minutes whenever he does step onto the court, those five or so minutes will be the toughest and hardest minutes anyone plays that night. Chuck Hayes gives you herosim. Chuck Hayes gives you hustle. Chuck Hayes gives you heart.