Timing is everything. For Buddy Hield and the Kings, it might be the only thing that matters.
The 28-year-old shooting guard was having a perfectly miserable season coming into this week. His erratic play and inability to consistently hit the 3-point shot that has made him a household name, has cost the Kings dearly.
And then, as if someone sprinkled magic basketball dust over his head, Buddy Hield became Buddy Buckets once again.
Sacramento’s roller coaster ride of a season isn’t all on Hield, but he also has to shoulder some blame. The Kings paid the Bahamian-born shooter handsomely to space the floor and provide De’Aaron Fox with running lanes.
In the first year of his four-year, $86 million contract extension, Hield came into Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets averaging 15.5 points per game while shooting 36.9 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from behind the arc. All of those numbers are well below his career averages.
In a normal situation, they would have cost Hield his starting job. But due to a massive lack of depth on the Kings’ roster, Hield has started all 35 games and coach Luke Walton is playing the fifth-year guard a career-best 34.7 minutes per game
Outside of his scoring woes, Hield has shown signs of improvement this season. While his defense is still an issue, he’s made strides. He’s also taken steps as a playmaker.
In his last two games, Hield has put on show. Maybe it was the opponents. Maybe it was the absence of rookie Tyrese Haliburton and Hield’s focus on what is in front of him and not who might be coming for his job.
Whatever the reason, Hield has been lights out. In the team’s outings against the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers, the Kings’ starting shooting guard averaged 29.5 points, 6.5 assists and four rebounds in 40.5 minutes per game.
During the two games, he’s turned the ball over just once and he’s found his shooting stroke. After struggling all season, Hield hit 65.6 percent from the field and 57.7 percent from 3-point range on 15-of-26 shooting.
This is the type of explosive player the Kings knew they had when they inked him to an extension. They’ve invested heavily in his development and while the sample size is small, it’s more of a glimpse into what used to be or what could have been for Hield.
With one game left in the first half of the season, Hield decided to showcase his talents. If ever there were a time to step up and prove his value, this was it. Now is the moment for some difficult decisions from general manager Monte McNair, or maybe Hield just made his life a lot easier.
No one expects Hield to continue at the same clip he’s produced over the last two games, but just the threat of him returning to form makes him a marketable asset for the Kings. Instead of a salary dump, there might be teams willing to gamble that his current situation in Sacramento was a determining factor in his lack of production.
Hield is incredibly durable, he's a very hard worker and he has one of the most valuable skills in the game with his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He also has Haliburton breathing down his neck.
If Hield wants out of Sacramento, he might have done the one thing that will write that ticket. If McNair decides this is the time to move him, there should be a few teams in the league willing to offer up something of value for one of the elite 3-point shooters in the league and a player that is capable of putting up 30 points on any given night.
McNair wants to remake the roster with his own vision. Hield and his ability to score in bunches could still be a part of that plan. But McNair needs flexibility and Hield might have just provided him with some.
The Kings finish off their first-half schedule Thursday in Portland. They’ll have roughly a week off for the All-Star break and with the NBA trade deadline set for March 25, this could be the right time to make changes.
McNair is going to be active. Whether that amounts to a major reshaping of the roster in the coming days is still up in the air, but very few things are off the table when your team sits at 14-21.