Kings

Do Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox make a case for NBA's Most Improved Player?

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USATI

Do Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox make a case for NBA's Most Improved Player?

Locked out of the offseason awards since Tyreke Evans took home the Rookie of the Year trophy in 2010, the Sacramento Kings have two legitimate candidates this season for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

It’s a crowded field, but with the Kings drawing a lot of attention this season with their strong play, both Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox will receive consideration. One of the pair may even take home the trophy.  

The case for Buddy Hield

Coming out of Oklahoma, Hield walked into the NBA as a known scorer. In year three, he cemented himself as one of the premier shooters in the league.

After earning a starting role coming out of training camp, Hield instantly settled in next to De’Aaron Fox in the Kings’ backcourt. He showed improvements across the board, but his real leap came as a scorer.

Hield showed a 7.2 points per game increase over his previous season, jumping from 13.5 points per game as a sophomore to 20.7 in year three. He also set new career highs in rebounds, assists and minutes played.

Known for his ability to knock down the long ball, Hield hit 278 3-pointers, which is the seventh highest single-season mark in NBA history, and a 102-make increase over his previous best season.

Hield increased his 3-point attempts by 2.8 per game while seeing his percentage barely drop from 43.1 to 42.7 percent. He became the Kings’ most consistent scoring threat and he hit big shots all season long.

The case for De’Aaron Fox

Fox posted a decent rookie campaign last year, but he took a massive leap as a sophomore. Not only did he improve, but the 21-year-old point guard became the face of the Kings’ franchise, which showed a shocking 12 game improvement in the standings.

Like Hield, Fox took steps forward in almost every facet of his game. His scoring average jumped from 11.6 points per game as a rookie to 17.3 in year two. He improved his 3-point percentage from 30.7 to 37.1 percent and his overall field goal percentage from 41.2 to 45.8 percent.

As a rookie, Fox posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.4-to-2.4. Despite the Kings cranking up their pace from 29th in the league to fifth, Fox successfully improved his assists to 7.3 per game while barely increasing his turnovers to 2.8.

Fox finished the season in the top 10 in both assists and steals and he looks like a player that can take another leap forward in his production. He has elite potential on both ends of the court, which bodes well for Sacramento.

Primary Competition

-Pascal Siakam had a tremendous season for the Toronto Raptors, and his team’s win total, although expected, may play a role in his candidacy.

Siakam jumped his scoring average from 7.3 points per game to 16.9 and added a career-best 6.9 rebounds per game. He went from a back end of the rotation player to starting 79 games on a 58-win team. He gets added points for being a late first-round selection.

-D'Angelo Russell went from bust to the leader of a surprise playoff team in Brooklyn. It’s a riches to rags to riches story for Russell who made himself a lot of money with his play this season.

Russell posted his best season as a pro, finishing the year averaging 21.1 points and seven assists per game while leading the Nets to a 42-40 record

-Montrezl Harrell found a home alongside Lou Williams coming off the Clippers bench. The 25-year-old undersized center bullied opposing bigs, helping lead Los Angeles back to the postseason.

Harrell averaged career-highs in points (16.6), rebounds (6.5), blocks (1.3) and minutes (26.3). He also shot 61.5 percent from the field and routinely dunked on his competition.

-Jon Collins slipped to the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and he’s making plenty of teams regret that decision.

The high flying power forward increased his scoring average from 10.5 points as a rookie to 19.5 as a sophomore. He made a similar jump as a rebounder, grabbing 9.8 rebounds compared to 7.3 in year one.

Collins flourished in Atlanta’s uptempo style, although the Hawks won just 29 games.

[RELATED: Bjelica recounts long road from Serbia to NBA]

Prediction

Both Hield and Fox have a strong case to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Hield elevated his game to become one of the game’s elite shooters while Fox developed into a floor general.

If one of the two is going to win the award, Fox might have the advantage. He is the face of the franchise and his ability to change the game with his speed helped multiple players post-career years in Sacramento.

 

NBA 2K20 ratings: Kings' Buddy Hield rated as fifth-best 3-point shooter

NBA 2K20 ratings: Kings' Buddy Hield rated as fifth-best 3-point shooter

Buddy Hield had a breakout 2018-19 season for the Sacramento Kings, and people are starting to take notice.

On the heels of his single-season franchise record of 278 3-pointers, Hield has been given a 90 rating for his 3-point shooting by the creators of NBA 2K20.

Hield ranks behind only Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Joe Harris. JJ Redick also has a 90 rating.

Hield's 278 3-pointers last season were the fourth-most in the NBA behind James Harden's 378, Curry's 354 and Paul George's 292.

The rest of the country got to see what Hield had been working on during the 2019 NBA 3-point Contest at All-Star Weekend. Hield made it to the final round, only to finish behind Harris (winner) and Curry (runner-up).

But Hield isn't settling for fifth-best. He wants to be better and let that be known on Monday.

[RELATED: Kings have 'couple of All-Stars']

If Hield can improve on his 278 3-pointers and 42 percent from deep next season, the NBA 2K creators are sure to move him up in the rankings.

Kings 'have a couple All-Stars,' fired assistant Larry Lewis believes

Kings 'have a couple All-Stars,' fired assistant Larry Lewis believes

Amidst all the reshuffling in the Western Conference over the last few weeks, it's easy to forget that the Sacramento Kings are one of the up-and-coming teams in the NBA.

Led by De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, the Kings won 39 games last season and have a promising future.

But the group of coaches that helped get those players to where they are won't get to see the job through to the finish line. The Kings fired head coach Dave Joerger after the season and let all of his assistants go.

Two of those coaches, Elston Turner and Larry Lewis, recently spoke to the Sacramento Bee about their departure and what they are leaving behind.

“They have a couple All-Stars,” Lewis told The Bee. “I saw a lot of potential in that young, core group. These players have a learning curve, but they were adapting very, very quickly to what was going on. Do they have a lot to learn? Of course, but at the same time, these guys are for real. I would have loved to have been a part of that going forward, but their decision is their decision and I’m at peace with it."

Fox and Hield made the biggest jumps this past season. It's clear the work with Lewis, who was a player development coach, paid off.

“It was a great experience,” Lewis told The Bee. “The players really grew. They really matured a lot. We had a great season. The team got a lot better. The players got a lot better. That’s what it’s all about.”

From Year 1 to Year 2, Fox went from averaging 11.6 points per game to 17.3. His field goal percentage improved from 41.2 percent to 45.8 percent, and his 3-point shooting improved from 30.7 percent to 37.1 percent. Those numbers combined with the highlight-reel plays he made were good enough to help him finish third in the NBA's Most Improved Player voting.

As for Hield, he blossomed from a spot-starter to a guy that started all 82 games for the Kings this past season. He entered the year shrouded in questions, but answered every single one of them by averaging a career-high 20.7 points per game and sinking a Kings' single-season record 278 3-pointers.

Bagley and Giles, both rookies, showed that they have the potential to be difference-making bigs in the NBA.

[RELATED: Barkley: Kings won't make playoffs]

“You could see the improvement,” Turner told The Bee. “A lot of guys got better and Larry was head of the player development department, so he did a hell of a job.”

Now it will be up to new head coach Luke Walton and his staff to help the Kings' young core continue their development. If they do, Sacramento will be a force in the Western Conference for years to come.