Buddy Hield entered the league as a pure shooter and scorer. He wasn’t a great ball handler, defender, or distributor. The question around Buddy was whether he could evolve to be more than just a shooter. This season, he’s answered those questions with a resounding yes. We’ve seen dramatic improvements in Buddy’s all around game, and Kings fans can be confident that Buddy is more than just a shooter.
(All stats via NBA.com/stats)
Let’s start with ball-handling. In his rookie year, Buddy could barely dribble. I’m exaggerating but not much. After being traded to the Kings in February, Hield averaged 2.1 turnovers per game, 2.6 per 36 minutes. This season Buddy has brought that down to 1.4 per game and 2.1 per 36 minutes. There’s obviously still some room for improvement, but it’s trending the right direction and supports the eye test that Buddy is taking better care of the ball this year.
Looking next at defense, Hield has shown himself to be one of the better team defenders on a bad defensive team. Faint praise, perhaps, but he’s serviceable. His defensive rating for the season is a less-than-ideal 107.2, but that’s good for 4th best on the team this season. Only Frank Mason, JaKarr Sampson, and god-among-men Jack Cooley have better ratings. Buddy gets by on defense through his effort. He’s probably never going to be a lockdown perimeter defender but he’s good enough that you can have him on the floor without being a major liability. Given his offensive prowess, that’s huge.
The most recent leap forward has been Buddy’s passing. He started the year on a very similar trajectory as last season, averaging about 1.5 assists per game. But Buddy’s passing has taken a major step forward in March. Through 11 games this month Buddy is averaging 3.1 assists per game with a 17.9 assist percentage. Buddy’s ability to set up teammates has been a surprising but welcome improvement.
Buddy has continued to improve since he entered the NBA. He obviously puts in the effort to improve, and we’re seeing the results. The Kings don’t need Buddy to be elite at every skill, but rounding out his skill set to contribute across all facets of the game is a great thing to see.
So while Buddy is shooting 42% from 3 this season, he’s not just a shooter.