When the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans in February, many fans were disappointed that the main return in the trade was struggling rookie Buddy Hield. Despite Hield being a player that many fans had wanted in the prior draft, Hield hadn’t done all that well in New Orleans, averaging just 8.6 points on 39.3% from the field. As an older rookie, more was expected of him.
Fortunately for the Kings, Hield looked like a completely different player in Sacramento. With more freedom to operate, Hield took over primary scoring duties for the new look Kings and delivered an extremely efficient 15.1 points on 48% from the field and 42.8% from three in 25 games. That was more in line with what people had expected of Hield, and it was good enough for him to win All-Rookie 1st team honors.
Now a year in, Hield will be asked to do even more, and he’ll likely see defenses plan better for him as more film becomes available. Hield’s primary threat last year was as a spot up outside shooter. Over the entire season, nearly a third of his shots were spot ups behind the arc, and he made a very good 41.7% of those shots. That percentage went down to just 34.3% on pull up shots. However in Sacramento he was asked to do more of his own shot creation and he actually thrived, making an astounding 44.8% of his pull up threes and 50% of his pull up twos. It’s clear that Buddy does better when given more freedom to operate and more time with the ball in his hands, much like he had in Oklahoma.
There are definitely areas of his offensive game that Buddy still needs to work on however. To really increase his efficiency, he needs to get to the line a lot more, and that simply didn’t happen all that much despite having the ball in his hands more than most of his teammates. Hield only attempted 2.1 free throw attempts per 36 minutes in his 25 games in Sacramento last season, an extremely low number.
Hield also needs to work on his handles to limit turnovers. There were definitely times last season where Hield got caught with a loose dribble, or made a bad decision with the ball. He was being asked to handle and create more, and while most of the time he did alright, he did see his turnover rate go up to 14.4% in Sacramento compared to just 9.0% in New Orleans.
Hield will also have a bit more competition this season. Malachi Richardson was injured during the entirety of Hield’s tenure in Sacramento, and the Kings brought in several other young guards this offseason in Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox, and Frank Mason, not to mention veteran George Hill and returning veteran Garrett Temple.
That being said, it’s hard to see any other Kings outpacing Hield’s production on offense. Hield should be the starter from opening night, and will be given every opportunity to score. I’m not sure if Buddy will break the 20 point a game mark this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. He has that kind of talent, and the ability to get hot in an instant. Opposing teams can’t afford to ignore him, and the Kings aren’t completely devoid of threats in other areas where teams can focus the entirety of their attention on him. This will be a much different Kings team than the past several season where the offense revolved around DeMarcus Cousins and to a lesser extent, Rudy Gay. Even still, Buddy will probably be Sacramento’s best and most efficient scorer. Buddy might not ever be the star that Cousins was, but he can provide stability and efficiency at the shooting guard position that this team hasn’t had in a long time.