With the selection of Buddy Hield, the New Orleans Pelicans not only drafted but appear to have decided to keep a first round pick for the long haul. For those who follow the team avidly, it's been an agonizing four years since Anthony Davis first came to town. And until last night, he was considered the lone homegrown product on the roster.
Yet, that's neither here nor there because all was momentarily forgiven in the span of one night -- Dell Demps drafted several enticing prospects! Remember your precise reactions on many a Christmas morning when stuff like school snow days or staying up past 10pm for sleepovers were all that mattered in life? Yeah, the 2016 NBA draft was similar to the feeling of grabbing and opening the biggest present under the tree for a whole slew of local fans.
Perhaps for this reason, handing out grades in the afterglow of drafting one of the most prolific NCAA scorers from last season is foolhardy. Eh, I say who cares because it's high time we all get the privilege of being irrationally happy -- the wounds of a disappointing season hurt badly.
So, without further ado, here are TBW individual grades for the New Orleans Pelicans selection of Buddy Hield.
Buddy Hield is the best shooter in this draft, and he can fill a CJ McCollum or Klay Thompson role for the Pelicans at some point down the road. He was my favorite prospect the Pelicans had a legitimate shot to draft because of his offensive prowess and potential on defense due to a 6'9'' wingspan. Plus, it means Dell Demps held on to a first round pick so good for him!
It's another selection where Dell either made the good pick (Jamal Murray) or the best pick (Buddy Hield). My love affair with Hield was clear when I started watching him in the games leading up to March Madness. His work ethic, his personality, his game (and let's be clear here, even though he is a senior, there's still tons of room for improvement) -- it all fits with where New Orleans is right now, more so than Murray. So yeah, this is most definitely an A+ pick for me.
I have to give the Dell/Ferry power team an A for drafting Buddy Hield. I regarded Dunn and Murray slightly higher, but loved all three guard prospects. Hield is surely more ready to step in on opening day and contribute than Murray (the other available guard), so that bodes well for a playoff race this year. He's a bigger two with solid athleticism and scoring ability. He's not a top defender, but he isn't terrible on that end. Buddy reminds me a lot of Michael Redd and should light up the scoreboard in a similar fashion.
I can't give this an A or A plus grade because that would presume I thought the Pelicans made the perfect pick. I had Murray ahead of Hield on my personal Pelicans big board. For myself, Murray was number three and Hield was number four, but I get the Pelicans logic completely. Hield is a two-way player who should be a lethal shooter -- the ideal prototypical modern NBA player -- and Murray will likely never be as good on defense as Hield. Also, Hield has an clean injury history. All in all, a great pick by the Pelicans.
If you prefer precision, let's say a 96 out of a 100. I probably would have given a Jamal Murray choice a 97 for a slight A+ edge, but I can't complain whatsoever with the outcome. We're talking about a player with a legendary work ethic who already shoots nearly 50% from beyond the arc. That answers two serious questions facing this roster about outside shooting and simple dedication. I don't think Hield necessarily has the best case scenario of Murray, but he's more of a sure thing and possibly the biggest first-year contributor in the 2016 draft. Certainly, it's a rare situation when a draft pick can solve both a team problem and is the best available player on the board. Buddy Hield checked both boxes, good job, Dell.
Just to be sure, I am not suggesting that Hield has no room to grow. Through his industriousness, he has plenty of upside -- where there's a will, there's a way, right? And shooters can stick around for a while, which is a nice feature for a team with few players committed for the long term. My reaction upon Silver's statement was a stand-and-clap. I love this.
The Pelicans needed to add a deadly shooter that also possesses the killer instinct. Can you recall the number of times the Pelicans needed to convert a big shot in crunch time last season? He has a high work ethic, a high IQ and is considered a great person. I genuinely believe he will be able to carry New Orleans to victory on nights where Anthony Davis is off, similar to shooting displays seen from Damian Lillard in Portland.
The Pels selected the best player available as well as a player possessing the primary skill that they badly needed --shooting. In addition, Hield projects to be a better defensive player than Kentucky's Jamal Murray. Hield also brings excellent leadership and work ethic, another area the Pelicans have come up short in the past. Hield exhibits Draymond Green-like leadership potential which has been missing from this franchise ever since Chris Paul and David West walked out those doors.
I think Jamal Murray has the higher potential ceiling between the two when the Pelicans got on the clock, but Buddy Hield has a significantly higher floor. Measuring the calculus on that is difficult, and I'm sure we'll be able to dig into it more after a season or two. Hield is going to be able to shoot in the league. He did break his toe during his freshman year and missed five games, but siince then he's played 109 consecutive games without re-injury.
Unlike Murray, it is reasonable to think Hield can be an average defender, at least. He has average physical tools for a shooting guard standing 6'5" with a 6'9.5" wingspan. He's athletic and reportedly posted a 40" vertical at a workout with the Lakers. Under the tutelage of Darren Erman, he could be a decent defender at a minimum.
I like the pick because the Pelicans took Hield over Murray for his defensive potential. I really like it. I think Buddy should be a nice scoring option who can become a decent defender in time. I doubt if he'll ever become a solid playmaker, but getting a knockdown shooter was a need for this team with Eric Gordon likely on the way out.
I feel Buddy's shooting stroke will translate in the league, aka he won't be the next Jimmer. Of course the concerns about his defense, turnover rate and lack of ability to create offense that isn't a three point shot are legit, but we'll get to that at another time. For now, this was a pick the Pelicans needed to make and they did. Bonus points for actually keeping the pick because I imagine Dell was really itching to flip it like a junkie desperate for another hit but he stayed strong.
The last time the Pelicans kept first round draft picks, I was ecstatic about the selections of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. Ahahaha! Hey, what can I say, humans are fallible! Needless to say, I'm not ashamed of my track record regarding any predictions because there have been more winners than losers. (**Knock on wood.)
So, I'm fairly confident in stating that Buddy Hield deserves nothing less than a grade of an A. On his end, the stroke, motor and list of achievements form an impressive package. For the Pelicans, they addressed the best player available, positional need and locker room character all within the span of a single draft pick. That's all you can ask for from the gambling nature of an NBA draft.
Buddy Hield is passionate, intelligent and his character is off the charts. The combination of those intangibles with a shooting stroke as pure as his made the New Orleans Pelicans first round pick a sure-fire winner. As an added bonus, he has earned admiration from one of the strongest competitors to ever lace them up in Kobe Bryant -- that can't be a bad thing.