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Watching the Tape: Buddy Hield needs to be optimized as a shooter

The Kings need to use Hield as a shooter, not a creator in Orlando.

Luke Walton's first season as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings has left a lot to be desired. It's not all on Walton that injuries have hindered team chemistry and development, but some issues that have been in his control haven't been handled appropriately. 

For the good moves that Walton has made to the squad, like swapping Buddy Hield with Bogdan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup, questionable changes have also remained prominent for the former NBA player. 

One of those gloomy head-scratcher moves lies in the hands of Hield, literally. When De'Aaron Fox went down with an ankle injury, the Kings immediately lost their best playmaker. 

Backing Fox up on the depth chart are Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell, two guards that don't possess the explosive, keep-up-if-you-can identity that Fox plays with. That definitely limited what Walton would've liked to do on the court. 

The mistake he made was trying to turn Hield, one of the league's best sharpshooters, into something he may never become: an offensive initiator. 

Hield's turnovers per game for the current season sits at a career high of 2.3. Naturally, his turnover percentage is also at a career high of 11.8. Buddy hasn't enjoyed the season he thought he would have after a strong campaign last year, but it's hard to completely fault him for that.

As good as Cory Joseph is defensively, the Kings didn't sign him to produce on offense. Yogi also becomes limited offensively as a smaller guard. As a result, Walton began to run more plays through Hield as the primary ball handler. 

Do I fault Walton for trying that out? No. 

Do I fault Walton for sticking with it even when it wasn't working? Yes.

Walton saw an opportunity to take Hield's game to another level, though as Hield's skillset has shown in the past, it likely wasn't going to succeed.

Before we dive into the tape, it's important to know that there were successful plays coming from Hield-led sets, but if the Kings want to win in Orlando, they need to stray away from attempting to develop a weakness of Buddy and focus on his strengths instead.

Much of Hield’s turnovers before Fox's injury resulted from lazy passing, loose ball handling and questionable decision-making. When you pair those qualities with additional duties on offense after your best playmaker goes down, the on-court product will look unappealing. 

Some of Hield’s initiating worked, as we’ll look at later, but it largely proved to be ineffective. Going into this pick-and-roll with Richaun Holmes, the play is bound to fail as soon as Buddy picks up the dribble. In the last film room, we saw some of Buddy’s passes work out. But many times, he failed to recognize that you can’t always pass the ball to the roll man after the screen. 

Mason Plumlee is in good position and Malik Beasley seals off any room for Buddy to pass it to Holmes. When Buddy picks up the dribble, Beasley reads the hip movement - the ball is going to Holmes so he jumps and deflects it. If you stop the clip at three seconds, Juancho Hernangomez is sliding over to Holmes. If Holmes is able to catch the pass, he’d have nowhere to go as he’s isolated on the right side of the court. 

The better play would’ve been a pass to Harrison Barnes, who is right in front of Hield, have Holmes come up to screen Jerami Grant and let Hield circle back to the right corner. Denver’s defenders would’ve been scrambling to adjust.


I’m not entirely against Hield bringing the ball up the court. If he brings it up, passing the rock elsewhere immediately is safer than him running around with loose handling. 

In this instance, he takes advantage of LeBron James getting to Nemanja Bjelica late under the rim. The ball gets to Bjelica who returns the ball to Hield. Hield is in a bad situation here. He’s surrounded by defenders with body momentum swinging right. That would lead to an off-balanced shot. 

There’s two options here: take the unbalanced shot with 16 seconds on the shot clock or put your feet down, shield the ball and pass it back to Barnes who would have to come back to aid Buddy. Instead, Buddy chooses option Z and attempts to split Danny Green and James on defense with a one-handed pass that has minimal effort behind it. Green and James are two high IQ defenders so naturally, they steal the ball. 

This half-court set is meant for Buddy to initiate. Cory Joseph, the other guard on the court, is in the paint. This is where I’d prefer Joseph as the initiator and let Buddy be the one running around looking for space. 

Much of the downfall of this play falls on the elbows of Holmes. The “screen” dusts by Kris Dunn and Hield fails to shield his body better, leading to an easy steal. Even if Hield is able to avoid getting stripped, there’s not much movement or separation from the other players without the ball. It seems like a play that was bound to fail. 


With 18 seconds left on the shot clock, Chris Paul invites Hield to drive with his left-hand - something Hield struggles with. Nerlens Noel is in good position to protect the paint and with the way this 2-vs-1 situation is heading, it looks like you have a pick-and-roll developing. But there’s steps to effective pick-and-rolls and with Paul baiting Buddy to take the drive, Buddy jumps straight to the final step of a proper PnR: make the right decision. Do you pass it to the roller, find a shooter, attempt a shot yourself or dribble it back for a reset? 

Remember how I said that Buddy often fails to recognize you can’t always go back to your roll man? Well, he did it again on this play that resulted in a turnover. 

Part of being an effective guard in any PnR is understanding where and who your shooters are on the court. When the defense cuts off the roller, it’s up to the guard to figure out what to do.

In this specific instance, Abdel Nader is the primary slider to Holmes, leaving his man open (as you can tell by now, Barnes is often the guy that puts himself in good positions to get the ball in many of these plays). Hield passes the ball behind Holmes and as great of a finisher he is, he can’t do it all. Instead, Hield needs to understand that when a defender is sliding, his man is likely open. A lobbed pass back to Barnes would’ve resulted in a three-point opportunity. Instead, it was a preventable turnover. Paul did his homework in that clip.

 

So far we’ve seen clips of Hield’s loose handling and inability to read defenses, but he also has struggled to be a scorer in isolation plays. Buddy has seen the ball on isolation plays on multiple occasions, but it hardly materializes. The league's efficient iso scorers are able to create space with crafty ball-handling with the ability to score off-balance jumpers from anywhere. As good of a scorer as Buddy is, isolation does not play to his strength. He’s prone to making mistakes and giving him the chance to score on his own doesn’t always work.

In this play, you have less than 10 seconds on the game clock. Buddy hasn’t made a move against Josh Hart and now there’s five seconds left. Buddy traps himself by setting his feet and not taking the shot, so he can either force a shot over Hart’s out-stretched hands or move the ball. Hield has an opportunity to get off a leaning shot after getting Hart to bite just enough, but ends up attempting a pass to Barnes who is in the middle of two defenders. Preventable turnover again.


Alex Len does a great job with a reverse pivot after setting a screen, but John Henson sees it coming and backtracks. Buddy tries to force the issue again and doesn’t make the right play. Len isn’t going to catch that and no other shooter has an ideal look - besides the dribbler himself. 

Buddy just needs to slow down in these situations. The game moves fast, but Hield tries to play faster. The final step of a PnR comes down to the dribbler’s decision and here, Buddy has plenty of room for an open jumper. Len’s screen opened up all the room Buddy needed for a shot. There’s nothing the defense could do if Buddy took the jumper, he just opted for the pass which was the wrong choice. 


Sometimes Buddy did make the right decisions when he needed to create. Here he does a great job of penetrating the defense and getting into the paint. 

When Hield gets Noel to jump, he simply dumps it off to Harry Giles with ease for a big slam. Notice how throughout the drive, Hield doesn’t try to rush or force the ball to somewhere where it shouldn’t. He takes his time, reads where defenders are moving and passes it to a cutting Giles.

 

The screen set by Giles isn’t necessarily the best, but it gets the job done. Hield then proceeds to attack the hip of Amir Coffey, a two-way player for the Los Angeles Clippers.

If the dribbler attacks the hip efficiently, it ensures that the defender can only trail you, essentially removing him from the play. That means that Buddy will have space in front of him to attack, but he has to be careful that the trailing defender doesn’t swat the ball away from behind. Giles is able to sneak behind Montrezl Harrell who gets sucked into Hield’s attack and Hield simply lobs it up for the slam. 

If basketball is able to resume in Orlando, then the Kings must use Hield more as a shooter. The way that Hield creates his own shot is by running around and finding space to receive the ball. It’s largely the reason as to why he shot absurd numbers last year.

On plays where he took zero dribbles, Buddy took three-point shots 30.9% of the time and converted on 40.9% of those looks(2.1 makes, 5.2 attempts). In this play, you see Buddy run up-and-down the baseline reacting to the ball movement. The defense forgets about him, so Joseph is able to find Hield for a wide open splash. 


Remember the clip of Hield in isolation with the game clock winding down? 

Now it’s Joseph in isolation with Hield on the wing. Joseph is able to use Giles’ screen to draw Josh Okogie in, allowing for a kick-out pass in which Hield drills it. Sometimes it's that simple.

If the Kings want to maximize their chances at making the playoffs, they have to play to the strength of their players. Walton’s utilization of Hield as an initiator hasn’t panned out accordingly and with Fox, Joseph and Bogi all healthy and available as ball-handlers, you don’t need Buddy in that role. Instead, let Buddy do what Buddy does best - tire the defense out with nonstop running and drilling those open looks. 

 

 

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Michael Ehrgott

This is an article fit for a King. I’m digging it.
 
Also I could not agree more. In Halo 2 CTF terms, Buddy is the sniper. He lurks and strikes from the perimeter and does not try and distract the enemy by running through their base.

Rob Hessing
1 month ago

First, great article.
 
Second, how is this somehow still a mystery to Luke Walton?

T D
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

Luke: Vlade, we need more play-makers to back up and compliment Fox. I am using Buddy for effs sake!
 
Vlade: Okay. I go get you more bigs.

Kevin Lam
1 month ago
Reply to  RobHessing

Well, he doesn’t watch tape…

T D
1 month ago

First, nice article.
 
B, stick to sports! 😉

Rik Smits
1 month ago

Thanks, good breakdown.
 
One of Buddy’s problems, which is shared by most Kings guards, is that he is really bad at using screens. A good guard (Chris Paul is a prime example) helps to guide the defenders into screens set by his teammates. We suck at it. And then we blame our big men, which is only partly true.

Timothy Bornemisza
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

Len and Holmes set really, really good screens. Bjelly is pretty meh and Giles gets caught on (blatant) illegal screens far too often.
 
 
When WCS was here we blamed our big man because he was legit awful at setting a decent pick. There was far less complaining (at least from me) this season.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago

IIRC, WCS would just leak out on his screens too early hoping to roll to the basket for an easy lob or dunk. He was the master of the faux screen, just hoping for the defender to hesitate rather than put a real body on him.

David Preszler
Dap
1 month ago
Reply to  RikSmits

Buddy’s problem isn’t shooting off screens it’s trying to push the pace with the ball in his hands occasionally easy layup often a turnover

Rory Cornell
1 month ago

I think Buddy just suffers from momentary bouts of airheadedness. On plays in which he doesn’t have these sorts of mental lapses he’s actually pretty good at creating shots for himself and okay (for a guard) at creating shots for others. He was basically the most efficient player on drives this season for the Kings when you consider volume, FG%, TO% and AST%. He’s more efficient scoring out of the PnR than Bogi or Fox. He shot ~65% on shots inside the restricted area.
 
There’s a role for Buddy as more than just a shooter, I’m just not smart enough to articulate what that role is. If you look at his starter/reserve splits for this season, then it’s even more befuddling. As a reserve his Usage, AST% (and AST/TO ratio), and TS% all went up. Essentially he was more effective, while doing more, off the bench. One would think the opposite would be true. I guess one could make the argument that he benefited from a drop in class as horse handicappers say.

Maxwell Huss
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

That’s just it. I think he’s a starter on a bad team… or a bench player on a mediocre to good team.

Rory Cornell
1 month ago
Reply to  AirmaxPG

I’ve never been willing to go that far. I think a competent GM could construct a good/great team with Buddy as a starter. Honestly, if one were to build a team with the goal to put Buddy in the worst situation, then that team would look a lot like the Kings. They have no real plus defenders, lack overall playmaking, and don’t really seem willing/able to figure out how to put Buddy in the best position to succeed.

T D
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

Yeah, I think he would be a really good compliment to a team with playmaking star(s).

Maxwell Huss
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

I just think he is too much of a liability on defense. I saw many possessions last year where the ballhandler called for the screen from Buddy’s man so he could get the switch he wanted. And the turnovers…
 
And I imagine just about any NBA player could be successful in a system like the Warriors, as an extreme example. I just think you would need several other very specific pieces to have an upper-echelon playoff team with Buddy starting.

David Preszler
Dap
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

He was good last year in joergers system got in trouble for making dumb plays but was pretty efficient

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  AirmaxPG

I’ve been thinking something similar He is more Ginobili or Lou Williams than Ray Allen or Reggie Miller. Let him feast on opposing benches and provide spacing for the second unit. You can still pair him with the staters (Tim’s ideal roster) for good portions of the game, but right now bring him off the bench while still giving him 30+ minutes.

Richie J
1 month ago
Reply to  Adamsite

There’s a vast difference between Manu & players like Lou Williams or Buddy.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago
Reply to  richie88

True, but I was referring more to their roles within the rotation.

John Lace
1 month ago
Reply to  RORDOG

Reminiscent of Francisco Garcia.

T D
1 month ago

No idea if this is a good or bad move but just wondering, was he on anyone’s national radar? I don’t remember hearing about him among up and coming candidates.
 

T D
1 month ago
Reply to  1951

Adding – I just read the bio the Nuggets put out and he has been working in front offices for longer than I realized (still, I guess I just didn’t see much about him so I was a bit surprised that a Kings legend got the nod!):
 
https://www.nba.com/nuggets/news/nuggets-calvin-booth-general-manager-070720
 
 

Last edited 1 month ago by 1951
Jeromy Simonoff
1 month ago

Its. Pretty. Obvious. To. Everyone. Except. The. One. Guy. Who. Can. Fix. It. Dammit.
(p.s – Nice write up, Sanjesh. Its not you, its the fact this needs to be pointed out at all…)

Graham Caplan
1 month ago

1) Luke Walton is trash.
 
2) Buddy should never be the one bringing the ball down the court, he needs to improve his dribbling immensely. And once he does, he still shouldn’t bring the ball down. Not the best decision maker IMO.
 
3) Luke Walton is trash.

T D
1 month ago
Reply to  LandParkJimmer

Yeah. It’s almost like we could have learned some lessons from Buddy’s break-out season under Joerger!
 
Seems simple to me. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t …
 

Last edited 1 month ago by 1951
T D
1 month ago

Um, who is playing for the Nets in this whole thingy?
 
 

Maxwell Huss
1 month ago
Reply to  1951

And yet they are still likely to make the round of 16, as the only one that can kick them out are the Wizards, who are 6 games behind them with 8 to play.
 
It’s highly possible… even probable… that the Nets are in while the Blazers and Pelicans are out.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago

In short, Buddy needs to be less James Harden and more Klay Thompson so the Kings can win more games. It ain’t rocket surgery, Luke.
 
Also, again Sanjesh, great piece.

Adam Dieter
1 month ago

I also want to add… From my occasional lurks over at the old mother ship, there are no articles of this quality. I’m so glad the core stuck together to keep excellent content flowing. Bravo!

Kevin Lam
1 month ago
Reply to  Adamsite

December 2019….it was at that moment Vox fucked up.

Kings Guru21
1 month ago
Reply to  Klam

One could make an argument it happened long before that.

Alex Vigil
1 month ago

Great content! Nice analysis Sanjesh!

Justin Alves
1 month ago

“Option Z” really made me laugh.
 

Last edited 1 month ago by SolidPoint
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[…] pace had to get slowed down…and that led to Buddy Hield becoming an initiator, which I have a piece coming out on soon, it didn’t work out, but Walton stuck to it, for some reason that I really […]

David Preszler
Dap
1 month ago

Love that you guys have a new site used to check everyday not do much anymore that said the energy isn’t here (definitely isn’t at str anymore) hopefully things can get out of 2nd gear in 3 weeks when we have ball again FUCK FAKE COVID19

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