It's tough to be a small market team these days. It seems that every superstar eventually leaves for greener pastures. With the recent departure of Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were just a few minutes away from punching their ticket to the NBA Finals, it seems a little hopeless that the NBA's smallest market, the New Orleans Pelicans, will be able to keep their superstar, Anthony Davis . . .
Not so fast. Enter Buddy Hield, the New Orleans Pelicans first round draft pick, sixth overall, in the 2016 NBA draft. If the Pelicans have any hope of keeping Anthony Davis in New Orleans, there is a good chance it lays with Hield. The good news? He knows this, and he seems to be embracing the pressure.
Buddy gonna save us pic.twitter.com/7ccXIzkxg0— deejay (@BreesInDaCut) July 5, 2016
Yes, Buddy Hield was joking, but the best jokes are always rooted in a modicum of truth. The Pelicans probably won't have a better chance to land a star caliber player than Buddy. Unfortunately, he is the last player the Pelicans will draft that has time to develop into a star player before Davis can exercise his option four seasons from now.
The best way to prevent Davis from exercising his option is to make New Orleans the most appealing team in term of talent. To do that, it is almost necessary that the Pelicans have two other stars and a great team chemistry. One other star, or bad team chemistry, and history tells us that Davis will likely leave.
To that end, while the franchise will undoubtedly be focused on making the playoffs this season, that ultimate goal doesn't matter. Far more important is the development of Buddy Hield.
If Hield doesn't develop, the Pelicans can make as many playoffs in a row as they want -- and history tells us that it doesn't matter. The NBA Small Market Graveyard is littered with teams who made the playoffs and their stars left anyway. [See Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets, Melo and the Denver Nuggets, Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder]
Luckily, fans have reasons for optimism regarding Buddy. His skill set (shooting) is probably the most valued skill in the NBA today. Last season Hield shot 46% from beyond the arc in college. Even if his three point shooting drops 8% next year, he would still be one of the better shooters in the NBA. Currently, Hield is projected to be the highest scoring rookie next season.
Buddy Hield's attitude and desire to be great is second to none. On the day of the draft, he was in the gym getting up shots. After being drafted, at which point he went from a kid shooting at cutout milk crates in the Bahamas to a millionaire, Buddy Hield was at the Pelicans practice facility putting up 200+ shots. Hield has no quit in him. And oh ya ... Buddy is clutch as hell.
Larry Drew says in practice yesterday Buddy Hield, late in a scrimmage, down two, demanded the ball in a timeout and buried the 3.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) July 6, 2016
Hield can potentially use this attitude and natural gifts to take the next step. As outlined last month, there are plenty more reasons to be excited that Buddy Hield can continue to develop despite being a 23 year old rookie. Consider this: the past two Most Improved Player winners in the NBA, C.J. McCollum and Jimmy Butler, spent all four years in college.
Buddy Hield will start to build his legacy in the NBA today on the campus of UNLV in what will be his first test, the NBA Summer League. The crux of the Pelicans future in New Orleans likely runs parallel to that legacy. Buddy Hield is here to "Save New Orleans". It's funny because it's true.
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