Buddy Hield's season is a huge issue for the Kings (7-10). If not for Sacramento's defensive woes, it would probably be the biggest topic of discussion through the Kings' first 16 games.
A reliable scorer throughout his four seasons in the NBA, Hield has been all over the board in his fifth. The 28-year-old entered Wednesday night’s game against the Orlando Magic averaging just 14.9 points on 37 percent shooting from long range, which is well off his own standard of play since coming to Sacramento.
Hield knows he’s struggling. He’s an extremely hard worker, and the fact he isn’t contributing like he knows he should is difficult.
“It’s going to come, everything is going to come and I just want to keep locking in and work on things I need to work on to be a better player for this team,” Hield said Wednesday in a video conference after the Kings' 121-107 win.
He’s working on improving, but Hield’s current numbers are far below what anyone would have guessed, especially with him hitting the first year of a four-year, $86 million contract.
Against the Magic, the Bahamian-born shooter looked more like himself. He buried 7-of-12 from 3-point range on his way to a season-high 29 points.
“I thought it was his most consistent game this year for sure, and maybe since I’ve been here,” coach Luke Walton said. “Just from a standpoint of playing both sides of the ball, making good decisions, knocking down shots when we needed shots to be made.”
It was a team win, with all five starters scoring at least 16 points. But Hield’s ability to hit perimeter shots helped open the floor for everyone else.
“Buddy’s an important part of our team,” Richaun Holmes said. “When he gets it going like he had it going tonight, we’re very very difficult to guard.”
The problem is that this is only the third time through 17 games that Hield has hit the 20-point mark. For a player who is not only expected to space the floor, but is also making $24.4 million this season, the Kings desperately need Hield to make a habit out of putting up numbers like he did Wednesday.
Some of Hield’s struggles are on his teammates. They need to set better screens. They need to look to get him involved early. They need to break down the defense, collapse the lane and then find him with a good pass on the perimeter to get him easy looks.
The team hasn’t lost faith in Hield. They know that he can be a difference-maker, which is why they kept feeding him against the Magic.
“He had a rhythm going tonight, but in any circumstance, even if I’m making shots, I know that if it’s me and Buddy and were open, nine times out of 10, I’ll throw the ball to Buddy,” De’Aaron Fox said.
Hield clearly is frustrated with his own performance this season. He’s playing major minutes in the rotation and averaging 10.1 attempts per game from behind the arc. But defenses are keying on Hield on the perimeter and scheming to take away his open looks.
Instead of making adjustments, Hield is settling for what opposing teams are giving him and, to a certain degree, he has become predictable, which he seems to understand.
“I’ve been settling for too many jump shots,” Hield said. “I’ve got to mix my game up. I’ve been watching my games and watching film from my past and that’s not who I am. I’m not just a 3-point shooter. I can do both, try to score from all three levels.”
Hield is a proven shooter. He holds the record for most 3-pointers made in the first four years of an NBA career. He also has a streak of 83 consecutive games with a made 3-pointer, which is the longest current streak in the NBA.
The Kings don’t need 29 points from Hield every night to be competitive, but it’s essential that he provides consistent production if they want to get back to .500 this season.