April 27, 2018, 6:34 pm
2017-18 averages: 80 G | 12 GS | 25.3 MP | 13.5 PTS | 3.8 REB | 1.9 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.3 BLK | 1.6 TOV | 44.6 FG% | 43.1 3P% | 87.7 FT% |
Coming into his second season Buddy Hield was a focal point of the Kings’ lineup — and for good reason since he was one of the main pieces the Kings got in return for DeMarcus Cousins.
Hield would somewhat falter in the early part of the season, though, especially as a starter. In 12 games as part of the starting five, Hield averaged just 12.8 points in 26.2 minutes per game. His scoring wasn’t so much the issue opposed to his shooting percentage. The 24-year-old shot just 39.1 percent in those games and knocked down just 35.4 percent of his 3-point attempts. His offensive rating as a starter was a minuscule 94, while that ballooned as a reserve was a respectably solid 105.
October, which was the only month when Hield started the bulk of the team’s game, was all the evidence the team needed to move Hield to the bench. He finished the month with what would be season low averages in scoring, offensive rating, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and true shooting percentage.
Once Hield made the shift from starter to reserve, he flourished. Hield shot 45 percent from the field or better in just two of his first seven starts. In his first three games coming off the bench he shot 61.2 percent.
It was obvious that Hield was able to take advantage of going up against team’s reserves and he became the most important part of Sacramento’s second unit. This was evident in Hield’s usage, where he had the team’s second highest usage percentage on the team — behind only Zach Randolph.
Hield’s position as the team’s sixth man became more prominent as the season continued and his ability to put up consistent numbers off the bench was something the Kings not only enjoyed but relied on. The team’s bench, with Hield leading the charge, outscored the starters on a number of occasions down the stretch of the season.
Hield’s confidence was exemplary as the season went on and he showed an ability to not only shoot good shots, but to effectively use down screens on a regular basis – as shown here against the Celtics:
He also showed an an ability to create his own shot:
Although only 6.3 percent of his shots were after seven or more dribbles, the Bahamian knocked down 49.1 percent of his attempts when that occurred. Hield’s highest shot selection percentage (34.7 percent), of course, came on catch and shoot situations (0 dribbles) where he made 53.0 percent of his attempts.
Hield’s ability to knock down 3-pointers off of screens and without dribbling was also as impressive. He made 50.2 percent of his attempts without even dribbling the ball.
The offense and confidence from Hield was something the team needed to see, but his development hardly started there.
Although the team didn’t play good defense for much of the season, Hield had one of the top defensive ratings on the team (a modest 111 DRTG) and tied for the team lead in steals per game at 1.1 with Willie Cauley-Stein.
Hield’s ability to become a pest on defense was shown by the amount of careless turnovers he forced as he applied full-court pressure sporadically or challenged for a lazy inbounds pass.
He showed that he not only paid attention to his opponent’s every move, but he was also able to take advantage of their poor decisions.
Here’s Hield in a bubble :
As if the offense from the sixth man slot and defensive ability wasn’t enough, Hield also showed that he could pass the ball. In the final two months of the season, Hield almost doubled his average of assists from the months prior. From October to February, Hield averaged 1.6 assists per game and in March and April, he boosted that up to to 2.9 per game.
One of the only faults Hield may have had this year was his lack of getting to the basket. He sometimes settled for shots that could have been easier and didn’t really get to the free throw line; he averaged just 1.0 free throws per game.
When the Kings traded for Hield, it was more than likely they envisioned him being a starting two guard, but with his ability to effortlessly score off the bench, the team had no choice but to utilize him against second string squads.
A Sixth Man of the Year award isn’t far fetched for Hield down the road. If the Kings use him correctly and play him consistent minutes, he’s proven to give good results off the bench and that’s all the team should ask for from him at this point.