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Can Buddy Hield make a run for Sixth Man of the Year?

Buddy Hield is starting to thrive in new role off the bench, but will it result in hardware for him at the end of the season?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As players begin to feel comfortable again in this young season, Sacramento Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield is also beginning to feel comfortable in his new role with the team.

After a somewhat lackluster 2020-21 campaign and the emergence of No. 12 overall pick Tyrese Haliburton, head coach Luke Walton and the rest of the organization made the decision that Hield and Haliburton should swap roles. Haliburton finished third in last season’s Rookie of the Year award race, prompting his promotion to the starting five. But it also led to Hield’s demotion, or so we thought.

Now, after an offseason of trade rumors, Hield is the Kings’ sixth man, but don’t think of him as just another role player; he is currently being used in a similar fashion to how the Los Angeles Clippers used Lou Williams from 2017-2020.

With his ability to shoot the three at an elite level, Hield now has the advantage of being in a position where he can take advantage of the opposing team’s often weaker bench defense. Hield is currently shooting 39.1% from beyond the arc while averaging a career-high 10.7 3-point attempts per game. The only other players averaging more than 10 3-point attempts per game are Steph Curry and Donovan Mitchell, and Hield has the highest percentage of the group.

Hield will also not have to worry about guarding the other team’s starting guards/forwards, which has often been the worst aspect of his game. In the 10 games he’s come off of the bench this season, Hield has posted a defensive rating of 104.5, which is the best defensive rating of his career. As a starter, that defensive rating has dropped to 119.6.

It is absolutely too early in the season to be making claims such as this. But if he keeps it up, Hield has a high chance to win Sixth Man of the Year.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Hield is currently tied with Ricky Rubio with the fifth-best odds to win the award at +2500. Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat is currently the favorite with his odds sitting at +140.

Herro is currently averaging 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 42.3% from behind the arc. The Miami Heat currently sit at fifth place in the Eastern Conference, however, many believe them to be valid contender to win the finals due to their acquisition of Kyle Lowry, adding to an already deep roster. They also rank first in rebounds per game, allowing the most opportunity for possessions.

For Hield’s odds at winning Sixth Man of the Year to improve, a couple things would need to happen.

First, his stats would need to rival Herro’s and likely be better, similar to his stats in the 2018-19 season. Second, the Kings record would need to improve their record greatly. At minimum, they would likely need to make the play-in tournament.

Both of those things are very attainable; Hield and the rest of the team need to get their act together if they are to happen.

Hield would be the first Kings player to win the award since Bobby Jackson in 2003. That is also the same year Peja Stojakovic won his second three-point contest, an award Hield was also the first Kings player to achieve since 2003. Coincidence?