Versatility is Nigel Hayes’ calling card _lowres

Associated Press photo by Patrick Semansky -- Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes, left, celebrates after Vitto Brown scored during the second half against Maryland on Saturday College Park, Md. Brown scored 21 points and Hayes had 14 in the Badgers' 70-57 win.

CHICAGO — You need a guy to defend a point guard on the perimeter and a big man in the paint? You need defensive versatility and accountability?

In short, are you seeking a Draymond Green?

Most everyone in the NBA is. That’s why Nigel Hayes figures he’s going to fit right in, whenever he makes the jump.

“The adults who were coaching me (growing up) always told me, ‘Don’t be a one-dimensional player,’ so that’s what I’ve done,” Hayes, a junior forward from Wisconsin, said at the NBA draft combine. “I’ve always been a basketball player that plays anywhere, and I think the league is definitely catching wind of that and going, ‘Wow, Nigel’s on to something.’”

So maybe he didn’t single-handedly inspire a movement.

But Hayes — who entered the draft without an agent and has the option of returning to the Badgers — is one of a host of versatile players (“positionless,” in the terminology of the moment) who’s benefitting from the rise of Green, Golden State’s star power forward.

The Pelicans didn’t interview Hayes — nor Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, another poster child for flexibility — at the combine, but they’re among the teams seeking players who can defend multiple positions, guard a switch on the pick and roll and create offensively.

Valentine, who like Green played at Michigan State, might be the biggest beneficiary of the Warriors star’s success. Though he’s smaller than Green and less likely to defend a power forward, he brings the offensive diversity that has made Green an integral part of the defending champions.

As a senior at Michigan State, Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game.

“I thank (Green) every day,” Valentine said. “He’s doing his thing and definitely paving the way for me.”

Lofty comparison

Valentine isn’t the only top prospect drawing comparisons to a Warriors star.

Asked last week why teams should covet Kentucky guard Jamal Murray, Wildcats coach John Calipari provided a two-word enticement: “Steph Curry.”

It might be a stretch to compare him to the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, Murray’s 113 3-pointers this season were the second-most by a freshman in Division I history. Only Curry (122) made more.

“He’s 6-5, he’s physical, he’s young,” Calipari said. “He’s a baby. I want you to think about it: He just came from Canada. Then he has eight months (at Kentucky) and you saw him (go from) a volume shooter to a high-percentage, efficient player who could play both (backcourt) positions. There are teams early on when those balls drop that are going to need guard play, more than anything else will need guard play. So I like where he sits.”

Long journey

Thon Maker has lived all over. He was born in the Republic of the Sudan, moved to Australia, came to America — to New Orleans, initially — and settled in Canada.

How many stops have there been along the way?

“I don’t know,” Maker said this week. “Do your research.”

NBA teams will do their due diligence on Maker, an enticing prospect who used a loophole to jump from high school to the NBA draft and who measured here at almost 7-foot-1 in shoes.

Though Maker was in the high school recruiting class of 2016, the NBA ruled that he technically graduated high school in 2015. Given that he’s 19 and a year removed from that graduation, he’s draft eligible this season, and he’s a challenging player to project.

DraftExpress ranks Maker the No. 39 prospect in the draft. ESPN has him at No. 26.

Maker, who did not interview with the Pelicans at the combine, weighed in at 216 pounds here. That’s up from 191 pounds 15 months ago, Maker said, an example of the work ethic he said he’ll bring to whichever team takes a gamble by selecting him.

“I just know that as soon as I get in there, I’ve got to work my butt off,” Maker said.