OK so we’ve been dying to give Tiffany Hayes her flowers. And after yesterday being her birthday and also the day her head literally bounced off the floor after catching her entire body without a call to be heard, today is just going to be our day. The former UConn product, and 11 year WNBA vet put in 10 years of beast mode with the Atlanta Dream (she did it for the Dream OK!?) before being traded to Connecticut this year.
In 2023, the Sun guard has helped land her team firmly in third place in the league. Tip consistently gets it done on both ends of the court. She’s been a clear offensive problem for her competition for a minute, even though she’s a defensive dog (she’s in the top 33% of the league in defensive rating). She’s a three-level shot creator, capable of impacting the game in myriad of ways, and can take anyone one-on-one (and sometimes two-on-one). Capable of putting up 30+ point games, Tip having a break out night can easily help the Sun rise throughout the post-season. Just as importantly, she also knows how to crash the defensive boards, steal, pass, and get her teammates involved.
“I’d take a team full of Tiffanys,” former Dream coach Nicki Collen said. “She shows up and she competes every single game. She doesn’t look for the spotlight, but it keeps finding her.” So today we’ll take a look at how this dynamic 5’10″ guard makes her magic happen.
After being drafted in 2012, Tip became a WNBA All-Star for the first time in 2017. But what could perhaps be billed as her breakout campaign was the 2018 season. That year she finished sixth in MVP balloting and fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting, and was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team and All-WNBA First Team. Today we find her a little older, a little wiser, and doing exactly what her team needs her to do, with the Sun, where she’s averaging a solid 12.1 points per game, 3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. She’s got her second best effective field goal percentage (54.4%) and is seeing the most starts she’s ever had (40) with similar minutes to what she’s played in the past.
Talking about her contributions to the Dream, Tiffany said:
“I always like to be that player that’s a lead by example type of player. So I just love when you look at me, and you see me do something, you’re going to see me do it hard so it’s going to make you go hard.”
Let’s break down some of her go-to moves so you can follow her example.
This is her bread and butter. If you leave the lane open, and even when you don’t, she’s going to do her best to get herself the simplest bucket in the game. As the heat map and chart below show, Tip gets most of her points within two feet of the rim and she’s a strong finisher, as her percentage is a bit higher than the league average there. She can drive well because she’s got amazing handles.
While she’s left handed, she’s equally adept at finishing on both sides with both hands. That’s the key folks! Plus she’s able to absorb contact, hang in the air, and manipulate the ball for a finessed finish.
“Tip’s (Hayes) a pro,” Stephanie White said. “I mean, she’s been doing this for a long time. She was in foul trouble early in the game and oftentimes that kind of hinders her a little bit offensively. But the best thing she does, and she’s one of the best that’s ever done in this league, is just get downhill, you know, get to the rim. And we needed her to do that and she did it tonight.”
Tip is also known for doing her best ‘Tazmanian devil’ impression on the regular. Just kidding, she’s usually more controlled than that. But she frequently gets her defender going one direction by faking the drive that way and watching for them to bite, then quickly shifts her weight into the spin and leaves them in the dust. Other times she uses it to weave through heavy traffic. She uses the spin both on the perimeter and in the lane. The keys are that she keeps her center of gravity low, and hugs the ball with both arms – and she’s speedy with it!
OK we’re not saying Tiffany necessarily does this specific move a lot but it’s indicative of a key part of her game which is that she can shoot out of any position. She has the balance and the footwork to raise up out of her pocket from any angle and make the shot – left side, right side, high, low – whatever starting point you want, she can hit it. This makes her incredibly hard to guard.
Tip is just shifty period. Her finesse is a big part of her game because it makes it so tough for the defense to know which way she is going. Whether she’s doing a cross over or a behind the back move (both of which she does a lot), she gets so low to the ground for someone her height and is so crisp with her footwork and where she looks with her eyes, that she’s likely to blow by you.
Tiffany is a fine three point shooter, and even in clutch moments. But she seems most comfortable with her mid-range pull-up game (and the stats back it up because she beats the league average with 41.2%).
This is more of a floater (below) but the point is, she likes to take easy ducks in and right around the lane. She’s great at seeing spacing, and stops just shy of the bigs to get buckets.
Critically Tip has also put in the work to improve her confidence and mental game. “I am actually pretty proud of myself,” Tiffany said. “It’s definitely a mental thing for me. I’ve always been really up and down with myself and my confidence and I’ve gotten a lot better with that. Everything is not perfect. But it used to be that if I had a bad game, I’d have another and then another.”
To improve your game and practice playing like Tiffany Hayes explore:
The thing about Tip is she’s got moves on moves on moves. She’s so tough to guard because who knows what she’s going to hit you with on any given night because her bag is so deep, and she’s smart about what she uses when. She won’t hit the pre-game tunnel with it because she won’t like the style, but her bag is Mary Poppin’s bag – it’s never ending, all good stuff, and totally unexpected in a fun way. She’s one of the greatest offensive players in the league right now. We can’t wait to see how her and the Sun do as they continue their Playoff run, taking on the Liberty on Sunday, September 24 at 1pm ET/10am PT.
Up next, explore the future of the Atlanta Dream Rhyne Howard’s skills.