With the season officially behind us, this is about the time we would normally begin looking forward to the draft. Actually, we normally would have been looking forward to the draft starting around February. But with the Sacramento Kings lacking a first round pick this year, we can spend a little more time than normal reflecting on the past season. We’re going to do this by grading every player on the roster, one at a time. The Sactown Royalty staff will provide their grades and thoughts, and we’ll have a poll and can discuss and debate.
Today we’re discussing Buddy Hield. Buddy finished the year averaging 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, while shooting 42.7% from 3 and 45.8% overall.
At this time last year there was legitimate discussion over whether or not Buddy Hield could ever be a 20 PPG scorer. He averaged 13.5 PPG last season, and the leap to 20 seemed huge. Before Bogdan Bogdanovic injured his knee, Buddy was probably going to be coming off the bench for the Kings. But when given the opportunity, Buddy thrived. What’s amazing to me is that he did it without a dramatic uptick in free throws. Technically he doubled his free throws per game, but was still only at 2.4 FTA per contest. Towards the end of the season Buddy struggled as defenses keyed in on him, especially when he was attacked with zones, but that’s a minor quibble about a great season. Buddy is hands down one of my favorite players on the roster right now. His work ethic and continuous effort combined with the ability to drain daggers, it’s everything I love to root for in a player.
Buddy Hield’s lights out shooting was an immense reason for success for the Kings this season. When they lost some close games, Hield usually didn’t shoot well, but he was also the reason they won many games as well. You look at that game in Detroit when he hit the buzzer beater for the win, a 34-point performance at home against Philadelphia and a few weeks later he had 34 points against Oklahoma City for another win, the list goes on and on. We thought Buddy would be the key sixth man this season like he was last season, but that Bogdan Bogdanovic injury that kept him sidelined in the beginning of the season was a blessing in disguise for Hield. He arguably had an All-Star caliber season, broke franchise records, and earned an A+ on the season. I wonder what happened to his house he bet on making the playoffs for though.
Buddy was the Kings most consistent and best offensive player last year. He broke the record for most three-pointers made through a player’s first three seasons and accomplished that feat while shooting the best percentage (42%) of anyone in the top-15 of that ranking. Hield also managed to eclipse the 20-point per-game mark, while grabbing the sixth-most rebounds of any shooting guard. He works hard on the defensive end of the floor, but his average wingspan, lack of lateral quickness, and tendency to make the occasional boneheaded play will always limit him in that area.
Buddy will turn 27 next year (insert age joke here), so he probably isn’t due for any Fox-like jumps during the 2019-2020 campaign, but he’s already an above-average polished player. If he’s the Kings starting shooting guard for the next several seasons, Sacramento will boast one of the best starting back courts for years to come.
Full disclosure: Buddy Hield is my favorite player on this team right now. I would have given him a B+ but my own vagaries prohibit me from giving + or - grades. I should also add that this grade (like all of the other grades that I am handing out) is completely based on my expectations and therefore could not be more subjective.
I just could not give him that elusive A grade, as I think that he still needs to fine tune his game just a bit, especially on the defensive end. He also needs to improve his consistency, as the Kings are hard-pressed to win when Hield is not shooting well. Finding other ways to contribute when his shot is off (or the opposing team is focused on shutting him down) would make him an A player in my book - Fox is a good example of a player that does not have to be shooting well to make a positive impact on the game.
Make no mistake, there is no player that I enjoy watching more than Buddy Hield, especially his perpetual energy and non-stop, never give up style of play. And I won’t argue with anyone that thinks that he deserves an A grade. But I’m going to reserve that A for next year, when I hope to see Hield close the loop on his nearly complete game.
(Side note: Doug Christie’s “Buddy Love” needs to be flushed immediately.)
I love Buddy Hield. I love his energy, I love his shooting, and I love the fact that each year he keeps coming back better and better. When’s the last time we’ve seen a Kings player improve this much year to year? Since Buddy has gotten here, he has added something to his game each season. He’s always had the shot, but this past season he started to demonstrate more confidence in his handle, more confidence in attacking the basket and more confidence in creating his own looks. De’Aaron Fox might have been the breakout star for the Kings this season, but Buddy was the team’s best and most consistent player all year. He also keeps getting better at what he’s already really good at: shooting. Only Steph Curry made more threes at a similar rate than Buddy this year. He broke the franchise record for threes in a season and probably not for the last time. Given what we know of Buddy’s work ethic and his incredible durability (he has missed just two games so far in his career and rarely ever looks tired despite running like a mad man most of the time), I’m very excited to see another year of the Fox and Hield backcourt.
I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said. He blew the socks off me this season. Based on his 2017-18 campaign, I did not expect him to be close to the player he was this season, and it makes me excited to see what outcomes another offseason will provide for Hield. What an absolute gem of a player.
Buddy Hield is not a perfect player by any means. But he made enough of an improvement this year to earn him an A in my book. I may have gone with A- if I did not have similar feelings to Rob about giving out a + or - on a grade, but here we are. Buddy increased his TS% significantly while taking 5 more shots per game. Owning a 58.7 TS% on a 25.1% usage rate is simply fantastic. There’s no way to deny that he had a great season.
But more than that, he has established himself as truly elite shooter. Buddy’s shot is the best single skill that any player on the Kings possesses. And he also has established himself as the go-to guy when the Kings need an important bucket. Big Shot Buddy is a crucial part of the turnaround that Sacramento is undergoing. The Kings found their 20 points per game guy, and they will feel comfortable putting the ball in his hands with the game on the line for years to come.
While his handles are improved, they’re still not great. And he does struggle to generate steals and can get a little lost on defense, but that’s not due to lack of effort. Buddy is leaving it out on the court every night. He is always fighting for boards or sprinting up the court in transition. It’s clear that he just wants to win, and he’ll do whatever it takes. I’m looking forward to watching him continue to grow and continue to rack up wins with this young Sacramento squad. I can’t wait until we lock this guy up for another four years.
How would you grade Buddy Hield’s season?
This poll is closed