The Pelicans 1st round draft pick is pretty much the lone bright spot of this dark season. With that draft pick, Buddy Hield would bring more than just another competent basketball player, he would bring the light of hope back to the New Orleans Pelicans fan base.
Buddy Hield, AKA Buddy Buckets, has been really freaking good at basketball this year. Buddy has become the poster boy for staying in college to develop your game. He did just that, and as a result is graded as a high lottery pick.
Hield's base stats look great: He averaged 25 points, 5.7 boards, and 2 assists per a game this year. His advanced stats look even better, which is hard to do for someone who shot the ball as much as he did this year. Despite having a 31.1 usage rate - per Ken Pomeroy - he still managed to put up a 122 offensive rating.
Buddy Hield's PER was 28.2 this season. If you go back and look guards who became legitimate NBA stars, you will find that a lot of them had PER's above 24. That list includes Derrick Rose, James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Kemba Walker, and Damian Lillard. There are two notable outliers in this list since 2011 (roughly when they started keeping track of College PER): Dion Waiters and Jimmer Fredette.
Those advanced numbers are pretty (BLEEPED) impressive. Now let's talk about how his game might translate to the NBA. The quickest way to judge whether the "Draft Expert" you are listening to is full of BS is if he calls Hield "just a shooter." Hield is a very good shooter, no doubt, but he can do so much more.
Doesn't look like just a shooter here:
So let's review: Is Buddy Hield just another perimeter shooter?
Buddy Hield has a wicked spin move in his play book that allows him to get around most defenders. Another thing to love about him is that he has great body control when driving into the lane. This enables him to counter with second moves if the primary defender makes a stop. The ability to adjust to a second move is something that translates very well in the NBA. (See Damian Lillard vs. Austin Rivers.)
Another thing that translates well is finishing at the rim (again see Damian Lillard vs. Austin Rivers). Hield finishes 64% of the time at the rim, which is second only to Jamal Murray amongst lottery guard prospects, and higher than several lottery forward prospects such as Brandon Ingram, Henry Ellenson, and Jaylen Brown.
So to sum up, Buddy Hield is effective at getting to the rim, and, more importantly, once he get's there -- he finishes. Part of the reason he is so effective at getting to the rim is because he shoots the ball so damn well that defenders are forced to play up on him. Just how good is Buddy Hield as a shooter? Let's discuss.
Buddy has the highest true shooting percentage (which measures the efficiency of all the shots a player takes) of all the lottery guard prospects in the draft at 67%. His true shooting percentage is insane when you consider he accounted for about 30% of all of Oklahoma's shots this year. Part of the reason Hield's shooting percentage is so high is that he can shoot it from anywhere on the court. Here is his shooting chart from this year.
So ya, Hield is not "just a shooter," but that doesn't mean he is not a damn good shooter. He shot 46% from three point range this year. Paired with a 64% finishing rate at the rim. Hield's all around offensive game is elite for an NBA prospect.
Buddy Hield has two fundamental weaknesses in his game. One, he was not a great defender on the college level. Two, he turned the ball over way too much this season. As it happens, NBA coaches hate players who can't defend and turn the ball over too much, so this could be an issue moving forward as the draft approaches.
Hield was not a great defender in college this year, but, he was not a bad defender per se either. Yes, Buddy let players blow by him far too often, yet usually he was careful to steer them towards his help defense. That demonstrates high IQ. You could also often see him pointing out to his team where they needed to be on defense.
Hield's high defensive IQ translates in his advanced defensive metrics. Hield still had a +1 defensive plus minus and a defensive win share of +2. His defensive rating was only slightly in bad territory at 102, but was vastly overshadowed by his offensive rating of 124.
Another reason not to be too concerned with Hield's defense is that he has all of the physical tools to be a good NBA defender. Standing 6' 4.5" tall with a 6' 8.5" wingspan, Hield is essentially an averaged sized NBA SG.
Moreover, Hield has shown in his past college seasons that he is capable of being a great defender. In his junior year, Hield's defensive rating was 94. That is a better defensive rating than "talented defensive NBA prospect" Kris Dunn posted this year -- his junior season.
There are some more obvious reasons not to be too concerned with Hield's defense this season. For starters, he was the most important player for his team, so most games he played conservative defense to prevent drawing fouls in the ticky-tack college game. Another reason is that if you are putting up a 124 defensive rating -- with a 31.1% usage rate -- you are probably justified in conserving some of your energy on the defensive side of the ball.
Buddy Hield's turnover rate is what I am primarily concerned with; this season he saw a spike in turnovers. He averaged 3.1 turnovers per a game, up almost one whole turnover from his junior season. His turnover rate was 14%, up 4% from his junior season.
Hield's turnovers could again be explained away by his high usage rate. In fact, his turnover rate is actually pretty average when compared to the other guard lottery prospects. Still, I don't like the way how he turns the ball over. Often times they come when a defender puts pressure on him and he drives and sort of fumbles the ball away. Turnovers and his handle is the biggest thing Hield has to work on when he comes to the NBA.
My number one pet peeve right now is anyone who uses Steph Curry or Jimmer Fredette to prove their point. If you enjoy using two of the biggest draft outliers in NBA history to prove your point, call me -- I have a weekly poker game I would love for you to join.
The truth is Buddy Hield will almost certainly not be as good as Steph Curry or as bad as Jimmer Fredette. To me, I have always seen him as the best version of the resurrected Danny Green. That is not to say, I think that is Hield's ceiling, but the most likely scenario. Someone who is a shooter/slasher who can score in bunches for an offense and play above average defense.
As far as Hield's ceiling, that is a much more interesting question. I think Ray Allen, Joe Dumars, Klay Thompson, Michael Redd are all great comparisons. Players who can shoot the lights out but put the ball on the floor when they needed. As far as his floor is concerned, Ben Mclemore is probably a safe comparison. Someone who can shoot and put it on the floor but just never puts it all together.
I have Hield as the 4th best prospect on my Pelicans big board after Simmons, Ingram, and Murray. Hield is the last guy on the board with "star" potential in my opinion. If the Pelicans can pick him up, I would be ecstatic.
The last thing I want to discuss about Hield is his "X" factor potential - his attitude. Buddy Hield's attitude reminds me a lot of Damian Lillard. He has the attitude where he lets' his "game speak for itself," but in the locker room, and off the record, he pushes every one of his teammates to be better.
That type of desire to win is what the Pelicans desperately need. So in his own way, I think Hield could save this franchise, even if he doesn't become the next Ray Allen, by pushing Davis and his other teammates to be better.
Plus, Hield already has an awesome nickname in "Buddy Buckets" and an All-Star caliber duo nick name to pair with AD in "Buddy & The Brow"!
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