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Buddy Hield’s offseason plans include working on getting to the foul line more

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The Kings sharpshooting guard has already mastered the three, but wants to learn from peers like James Harden to get easy opportunities at the line.

Kimani Okearah

The Houston Rockets did a lot of things right against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night – chief among them was tying the record for three-point shots made in a game.

Their leader, James Harden, did what he does – draw attention, make threes, pass the ball and get to the lane. He also drew fouls. Though he only had six three throw attempts (his average is 11.1) against the Kings, the way in which Harden is working the current NBA rule book to get to the line has been a key to his point production (36.3 points per game). Harden leads the league in free throw attempts at 833 total, a whopping 180 more than second-place Giannis Antetokounmpo. He also shoots 87 percent from the line, which is good for fourth among all qualified point guards.

The reigning MVP’s ability to draw fouls is something this Kings team can learn from. With the season winding down and the Kings looking at just four games left, the team’s top scorer, Buddy Hield, was asked what he plans to focus on over the summer.

”Creating and getting to the foul line, that comes with playing in basketball pickup games, creating contact and drawing fouls,” said Hield, who had no free throw attempts in the loss to the Rockets.

This was a goal this season for Hield also, and he has been driving to the lane more, but it sounds like he wants to take it to another level, and that might be exactly what he (and this team) needs.

His free throw attempts per game jumped from 1 last season to 2.5 per game this year, and he is taking 4.5 shots per game within less than 10 feet from the basket (he took 2.4 per game last season). Hield is averaging 20.9 points per game as his huge improvements in the 2018-19 campaign have been well documented. However, he has only scored more than 30 points this season seven times. That isn’t a knock on Hield because he clearly is a valuable piece to the Kings franchise moving forward and they likely don’t have 38 wins without him, but it could be that with a handful more trips to the line per game his scoring numbers go up and move him into the list of the elites in the league.

He has the shooting percentage to do it. Hield is shooting 88 percent from the line (fourth best among qualified shooting guards, and ninth best in the NBA. In terms of attempts, however, he is 14th among shooting guards at 193 attempts this season (Lou Williams leads all shooting guards with 469 attempts).

All of the players in the top 10 in scoring, other than Steph Curry (4.3), average at least six free throw attempts per game. If Hield averaged around 5.5 more free throw attempts, it could vault him into that list of top 10 scorers. The only shooting guard currently in that top 10 is Devin Booker, who takes 6.8 shots per game within 10 feet of the basket, and has 7.1 free throw attempts per game. Bradley Beal, who is tied with Anthony Davis as the 11th top scorer in the league, takes 7.1 shots per game within 10 feet, to go with 5.6 free throw attempts per game.

Now, it also should be noted that Hield isn’t the focal point of the Kings offense, and many of these other players have the ball in their hands more. De’Aaron Fox drives the train with his speed and playmaking ability. Fox is sixth among all point guards at 410 total free throw attempts and 22nd overall. Yet, he’s 29th among point guards in free throw percentage at 72 percent, so that will be something Fox could work on this summer. (Side note: Marvin Bagley is tied for ninth among all power forwards in free throw attempts at 247 total, even with missing an extended amount of time due to injury.)

With the way that Fox and Hield both improved over last summer, it is clear they are hard workers. So, there shouldn’t be much reason to doubt that Hield can add more free throw attempts to his game next season, which could go a long way in helping this Kings team finally make it back to the playoffs.