Coming into the 2018-19 NBA season, the most hyped and promising player to look for on the Sacramento Kings’ roster was De’Aaron Fox.
The speed, the agility and overall athleticism was something that was almost a privilege to watch.
But, when we look at the Kings’ roster now, Fox may not even be the best player in his own backcourt. The 26-year-old Bahamian baller – Buddy Hield – made waves on the court with his tremendous scoring ability. The question is… is he the leader that Sacramento has been craving?
The 2016 draft was nothing special. Ben Simmons, the consensus #1 pick at the time, is the only All Star of the entire draft class so far. Lottery picks such as Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Denzel Valentine have done very little to provoke any idea of promise. Other lottery picks such as Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and Jamal Murray (not to mention Malcolm Brogdon and Pascal Siakam who were not lottery picks) have shown great potential and given us flashes into what could be very successful NBA careers for them.
Buddy Hield is a bit different.
Picked at the #6 spot by the Pelicans, Buddy’s draft stock seemed to drop before the draft for two main reasons.
Normally NBA executives love to pick prospects as young as possible (exhibit A: Jayson Tatum) to allow as much time as possible for them to flourish into as good of a player as they can possibly be. Hield was 23 when he was drafted.
Secondly, Hield put up an absolute dud of a game in the most important college match of his career. After putting up 25 points and 5.7 rebounds a game in his senior year (which also managed to win him the John R. Wooden Award for the best college player in the nation), Hield came into March Madness with his Oklahoma Sooners seeded #2 in the West.
Oklahoma were cruising through their side of the bracket, winning 3 of the first 4 games by double digits behind Hield’s 29.25 points per game (which included 2 30-point games). Oklahoma were looking dangerous.
Then came their Final Four game against #2 seeded Villanova. Oklahoma were crushed 95-51. Buddy shot a miserable 4-12 for 9 points as the Wildcats ran rampant over the Sooners, scoring more in the second half than Oklahoma did all game.
So, with these two things in mind, and his mediocre 6’5” height and 6’9” wingspan, Buddy dropped to the #6 pick and headed to New Orleans.
He only lasted 57 games in Louisiana. Averaging only 8.6 points per game, he was packaged in a deal with the Sacramento Kings that sent Boogie Cousins to the Pelicans to pair with Anthony Davis on All Star weekend. After this, Buddy showed his true promise.
With Kings owner Vivek Ranadive claiming that he has “Steph Curry potential”, Buddy played with the confidence that he had in college. Improving in every major statistical category, and almost doubling his scoring in his last 25 games of the season.
Buddy was looking good.
His backcourt companion was drafted the next year in De’Aaron Fox, and just two seasons in playing side-by-side, they look fantastic.
In the 2018-19 NBA season, Hield put up 20.7 points per game to go along with 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. For someone in their third NBA season, they are some great numbers. Most impressive for the past season was his 3-point shooting. Whilst shooting at 42.7%, Hield nailed 278 3’s which was 4th in the league for the season and 7th all-time. Only the likes of Steph Curry, James Harden and Paul George have ever hit more 3’s in a season than Buddy did in this past season.
And he hasn’t even hit his prime yet.
Despite already being 26, I believe that Hield has another level to get to. Playing alongside the explosive Fox, Hield has every opportunity to be a high-volume scorer on a roster that is rising through the ranks in an already strong Western Conference.
With the whole Sacramento organisation behind him, a new coach in Luke Walton and a very well-constructed young roster, Buddy has a chance to become the star player that this Kings line-up needs.
Don’t count Buddy out for the All-Star game in Chicago this season.