Much has been said about Buddy Hield’s NBA career and how it’s left many wanting for more.
Since being drafted by New Orleans Pelicans with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Bahamian was traded to the Sacramento Kings halfway through his rookie year and largely struggled to find a solid footing in the league despite a stellar college career at the University of Oklahoma.
Largely complicating matters was the logjam at the guard position created by the Kings’ penchant for drafting guards in the lottery in five out of the last 10 NBA drafts. Their decisions to bring in the likes of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Garrett Temple, Terence Davis, Cory Joseph, and Harrison Barnes certainly didn’t alleviate things.
This dilemma has led to trade rumblings surrounding Hield that have gone on for at least two seasons despite him averaging 20.0 points on .444/.410/.869 shooting splits from 2018 to 2020. There certainly is a market for the 2016-2017 NBA All-Rookie First Team selection, whose shooting remains in demand in the NBA.
One has to wonder if opportunity was the only thing lacking for Hield, whose career 40.3 percent 3-point shooting percentage is the 10th highest among active players. He has only averaged single-digit points once in his six seasons, but has played in all games in three of the last four seasons and averaged 31.8 minutes over that span.
Regardless of which side you’re on, it seems that his moment of reckoning has come with Tyrese Haliburton entering the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols just as Sacramento was about to take on the Houston Rockets.
Even with Halburton out, Hield remained in his bench role but the increased touches and De’Aaron Fox’s Flagrant 2-foul ejection in the fourth quarter contributed to his game-high 27 points. His hot shooting was instrumental in the Kings overcoming an early 11-0 deficit to start the game and in securing an 88-85 lead entering the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it went for naught as the Rockets scored 33 points in the final quarter and slipped past Sacramento with a 118-112 win.
Should Haliburton’s stint in the health and safety protocols last for 10 days, he will miss the Kings’ next four games, which come against Eastern Conference teams. Playing against the likes of the Detroit Pistons, the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics, and the Atlanta Hawks will present some potential chances for Hield to remind Sacramento of what he can do in an even more featured role. That he has played parts of the season as a shooting guard, small forward, and even for a time, power forward (despite being only 6-foot-4) should leave him in line for minutes since Marvin Bagley III is dealing with a litany of injuries.
Kings head coach Alvin Gentry may likely keep Hield on the bench considering his impact in providing production for the second unit, but he should earn more minutes with Fox, whom he has developed chemistry with over the years. Fox’s drives usually draw defenders to close out gaps inside, giving Hield some space to knock down 3-pointers. This inside-out combination also works well in transition, as Fox can easily kick it out to the 2020 Three-Point Contest Champion for the pull-up 3-pointer.
Hield does have to be more careful on defense, where he usually runs through screens and tries to chase his man. He can at times get caught in the action and savvy bigs can take advantage of this on the low block. Key for him will be to stay on the perimeter and communicate on defensive assignments and cues. His active hands have led him to averaging one steal a game on the season and he has had moments where he can make defensive stops.
Hield shouldn’t worry if he returns to the same role once Haliburton comes back. The trade deadline is still next month and there are a handful of teams who would certainly be buyers on the market. Sacramento is likely waiting for the right offer to come along and time will tell if both parties will come out of the deadline as winners.
The jury is still out on the career of Buddy Hield as a whole, but his shooting is without a doubt an asset in today’s NBA. The Sacramento Kings are currently down a few personnel and now is Hield’s chance to strut his wares for either his current employer or for one who will be acquiring his services at a later date.