SACRAMENTO -- He grows on you. With his big smile and thick Bahamian accent, Buddy Hield has arrived this season in so many ways for the Kings.
The third-year guard has impressed on a nightly basis with his ability to score in bunches. He has become an extremely efficient shooter, and very few players in the league put in the overall miles that the former Oklahoma Sooners guard does for the up-tempo Sacramento offense.
Hield has failed to score in double-figures just twice all season and he ranks fourth in the league in 3-point percentage, knocking down a shocking 45.2 percent on 7.6 attempts per game. He's averaging 20.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 31.6 minutes per game this year.
All of those numbers are career-highs.
“You watch him and you just smile, because he loves to play,” coach Dave Joerger said of his budding star at the two. “He loves to make a play and it’s not selfish or greedy in any way, shape or form.”
There are still moments when Hield drives you crazy. At the pace the Kings play, the design is for Hield to get back on defense and not hang around the key looking for boards.
“He runs in for offensive rebounds, which makes me pull my hair out sometimes,” Joerger said following the Kings’ win over the Miami Heat on Friday. “He did that today and won the game for us.”
Sure enough, it was Hield who slashed to the basket, grabbed an errant layup from De’Aaron Fox and laid it in to seal the victory for Sacramento.
Hield is learning that it can’t just be about how many points he scores. If he wants to be part of a winning culture, he has to do whatever it takes.
Even if that means sacrificing some of his statline or defying his coach on occasion.
“It’s the little things and the little things get me chewed out a lot by Dave too, but I’m going to keep on plucking away and try to find ways to win,” Hield told NBC Sports California. “That’s what you’ve got to do as a basketball team, a basketball player, you’ve got to find ways to win and help your team.”
The light bulb has gone on for Hield both on and off the court. His maturation as a player is stunning, but his change in demeanor is equal to (or greater) than what fans are seeing between the lines.
Following the stunning trades of Iman Shumpert and Justin Jackson last Wednesday, it was Hield who stood in and fielded difficult questions. With a void in leadership, he is one of the players who is ready to step in and take the torch.
“You’ve got to step up, you’ve got to grow,” Hield said. “Shump is not the voice anymore like it use to be. Z-Bo’s (Zach Randolph) not here. Garrett’s (Temple) not here.”
This isn’t the same kid that came to the Kings at the 2017 NBA trade deadline in a swap for big man DeMarcus Cousins. Everything about him feels different.
“Look at me, I’m the one shooting most of the balls, so you know, I have to have something to back it up,” Hield said.
Those are words that Hield wouldn’t have spoken a year ago. Like so many others that come into the league, Hield was all about his own numbers in his first couple of seasons.
His lack of versatility as a player had plenty within the organization believing he would never be a starting-level shooting guard in the league.
Those concerns are gone. Hield is clearly a starter, and he might even be a lot more than that.
“You’ve just got to love his spirit and what he brings to our team,” Joerger said. “I can’t say enough good things about [how] the positive far outweighs the negative with him.”
Hield will participate in the 3-point shootout on Saturday as part of NBA All-Star weekend. There’s a good chance it won’t be the last invitation he receives to the NBA’s annual showcase.
While it should be a fun experience, Hield is focused on his team’s chase for a playoff berth, which has evaded the Kings franchise for the last 12 seasons.
Hield knows what the playoffs would mean for his young team, and he also understands that his squad is playing for more than just themselves.
“There’s a lot of pressure. You know why? Because the city hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2005-06 and it would be a joy to get them back there,” Hield said. “It’s a great fanbase and they love it so much. They’re passionate about basketball and it’s a lot of pressure.”
Young players don’t always understand the big picture. In his third season, Hield is starting to see the forest through the trees, which is a refreshing development.