Editor’s Note: Welcome to our 2020 Kings Season Preview series, where we’ll be looking ahead to what this season will bring for every member of this Sacramento roster and pondering both best and worst-case scenarios. Today, let’s continue with Buddy Hield.
How did he get here?
Hield was the centerpiece of the 2017 trade that saw DeMarcus Cousins shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans. Hield is entering his fifth season with the Kings and has consistently been a scorer since his arrival. The 27-year old is averaging 17.5 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting a tidy 41.6 percent from beyond the arc during his time in Sacramento.
The departed Vlade Divac signed Hield to a four-year extension worth up to $106 million that kicks in this season. Hield was at the center of trade rumors during the offseason, but once general manager Monte McNair elected to move on from restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hield became one of the most important players on the roster.
What is his best-case scenario for 2020-21?
It is going to be interesting to see where Hield slots in head coach Luke Walton’s rotation. Hield began last season as a starter, but after the team struggled, Walton moved Hield to a reserve role in favor of Bogdanovic. Once Hield was moved to the bench, his scoring average dropped by 2.1 points, and he played nine fewer minutes per game.
Hield is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, and if the Kings commit to playing at a faster pace, his skill set will translate nicely next to point guard De’Aaron Fox. The Kings shot nearly double the amount of above the break threes with Hield on the court than they did with him on the bench and connected on 3.2 more attempts per game, per NBA.com.
The underlying data shows the impact of having Hield on the floor, especially on the offensive end. Sacramento had a better effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage when Hield was in the game.
Hield needs to continue to bring his energy and effort to the team. He plays hard and competes each night. If he can focus on his role with the team and help with the development of rookie Tyrese Haliburton, it will be a nice benefit to the Kings.
The best-case scenario is that Hield plays well enough to quell any concerns about his contract, or his performance increases his trade value around the league.
What is his worst-case scenario?
If Hield — regardless of if he starts or comes off the bench — continues his poor shot selection, it will hinder Sacramento as a team. Hield shot roughly five percent below the league average on his two-point attempts last season, including just 35.2 percent from three-to-10 feet. The Kings could still look to move Hield during the season, but if his performance doesn’t match his contract, McNair will have a tough time getting equal value in return. If Hield’s numbers dip again this season, the organization would almost certainly have to take on a bad contract to jettison the reigning NBA 3-point champion.
Defensively, Hield continues his poor play as a team defender. Sacramento gave up 4.7 more points per 100 possessions with him on the court, not ideal for a team that desperately needs to improve its defense, especially from its wing players.
The other variable is Hield’s relationship with Walton. The two seemed to be at odds through most of last season and especially for the eight games in the bubble. Hield could be asked to come off the bench again this year, and if he’s not happy about it, it will hang a dark cloud over the locker room. Hield has said all of the right things at training camp, but his emotions have gotten the best of him at times. If they do again this season, the drama between the coach and Hield will continue to worsen as we get into the new year.
Hield is a talented scorer whose shooting gives the Kings a lethal threat from beyond the arc. Without Bogi, he should get an increase in minutes, but he will only maintain them if he is more consistent night in and night out. McNair hasn’t fully committed to Hield’s long-term future in Sacramento, so we could see Hield moved at some point in the near future is the price is right.
What is your best-case and worst-case scenario for Hield in the new season?