To many Kings fans dismay, Sactown Royalty’s fourth overall ranked prospect was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the sixth pick in last year’s draft. His scoring prowess was thought to be a perfect complement to the athletic aberration that is Anthony Davis and many expected him to be a key piece of their core moving forward.
Now, 243 days later, he is a Sacramento King and the marquee piece in the semi-shocking DeMarcus Cousins trade. The question for fans and media alike remains; who is Buddy Hield?
Chavano Rainer Hield was born on December 17, 1993 as the fifth of seven eventual children in Freeport, Bahamas. His early life consisted of sharing a bed with seven brothers and sisters, sneaking off to play basketball in the middle of the night, building his own basketball hoop, and taking tens of thousands of shots on different courts throughout his childhood.
Buddy’s dedication to his craft and willingness to constantly push himself began to reap its rewards in high school. The Bahamian Baller took his Jack Hayward High School team to the championship of the Providence Holiday Tournament and also won the Grand Bahamas High School Championships. He then transferred to the well-known Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas where he was named MVP of the National Association of Christian Athletes during their championship run in his junior year.
Hield then went on to sign with the University of Oklahoma where he played for four years and improved during each season. He was awarded numerous accolades during his dominant senior season including the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith College Player of the Year, the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Sporting News College Player of the Year, first-team All-American, and Big 12 Player of the Year.
Bryant wrote up a detailed account of Buddy’s Oklahoma career if you would like to dive into more of his collegiate performance.
Beyond his past on-court performances, Hield’s nickname “Buddy Love” perfectly represents an image of his peppy personality. Read any interview with him or look through former coaches, former teammates, and media members accounts and you will see a common thread of words and ideas such as effervescent, funny, dedicated, happy-go-lucky, and cheerful. It seems that not only have the Kings acquired one of the hardest workers out there, and a gym rat, but we’ve obtained quite the character as well.
His overall statistical contribution looks like that of a solid rookie with plenty of room to grow. As a member of an overall weak first-year group, Buddy has easily been a top five new player this season as he’s outplayed just about everyone selected before him and around him.
Although the raw numbers look only mildly encouraging, there are a couple of factors that wildly affect Buddy’s stats. Hield is a scorer first and foremost and as you increase his minutes, not only do his points increase, but so does his efficiency, especially from three point range.
The Kings new shooting guard of the future has scored in double digits in 23 of his 57 games played with his best night of the year coming on December 15th as he poured in 21 points (8/17 FG, 5/8 3P) while grabbing 4 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists. His comfort level in the league has continued to grow and he’s shooting a scorching 43% (71/165) from deep since December 4th.
While his offensive potential is obvious to anyone who watched him at Oklahoma or in New Orleans, his defensive weakness is very rookie-esque. Buddy frequently gets lost watching the ball instead of guarding man and ball and that has resulted in a moderately putrid defensive rating of 111, especially when he’s mostly been paired with defensive anchor Anthony Davis.
In this first clip, Hield sags way too far off of Chandler Parsons and causes his teammate to over-help, giving up an open shot.
The second video shows Buddy over-helping on the ball, possibly with an intent to steal a pass or strip the offensive player, and once again gives up an open shot.
Not all hope is to be lost with a couple of bad plays. The phrase “rookies gonna rook” should be generously applied to his defensive success, or lack thereof. The good news is that he seems to try hard on both ends of the court on most nights. Continued experience and tutelage under Dave Joerger should convert Buddy from a terrible defender to an average one at worst.
As Vlade Divac so abruptly stated in his one-on-one interview with our own Blake Ellington, “We have to score” and the Kings certainly got themselves a potential fire-breathing, complementary scorer. Buddy is already knocking down 37% of his three point attempts while taking over four per game, which is over half of his total field goal attempts. A modern NBA player if there ever was one, 76% of his shots are either at the rim or from beyond the arc. Mid-range jumpers are almost non-existent in his repertoire.
While Buddy can take over a game from deep, he struggles to do it alone. 81% of Hield’s made three pointers have been assisted this season. Like most NBA players, his pull-up game is inefficient and unreliable as he shoots a miserable 32% overall and an even worse 28% from beyond the arc when he tries to do it himself. On the flip-side, his catch-and-shoot numbers tell the story of a great set shooter. The same numbers jump to 41% overall and 42% from three when he’s in a catch-and-shoot position.
Buddy’s aggressiveness at the rim is another area of opportunity. He only shoots 52% within three feet of the hoop (league average is 60%) and his ability to draw fouls is almost non-existent. In 1,161 minutes played so far, Hield has drawn only 15 shooting fouls and has taken only three “And-1” free throws. To put that in context, Malachi Richardson has played 198 minutes, has drawn 10 shooting fouls, and has taken three “And-1” free throws. Some of this may have to do with a lack of physicality from Buddy and some of it may be caused by different playing styles. Malachi seems to be more of a slasher and pull-up shooter while Buddy is an assassin from deep.
So, who is Buddy Hield?
My apologies Vivek, but there is nothing to indicate that Buddy Hield is the next Steph Curry, and that’s okay. While 23 is considered “old” for a rookie, he still won’t reach his prime for another 3-4 years and due to his reported unmatchable work ethic, his growth should be exponential in the next few seasons. He may be more J.J. Redick than Steph Curry, and there may be some struggles as defenses will be more focused on him than ever, but Kings fans should be excited about the prospects of our new rookie. Welcome to Sacramento, Buddy Love.