The light bulb is going on. In his third NBA season, Buddy Hield is refining his ability to put up points and the Kings are reaping the benefits.
Hield came into the league as a pure scorer. It’s taken time for him to acclimate to the quickness and length of NBA players, but he’s rolling now and coach Dave Joerger is giving him the green light.
After averaging over 21 points per game in both December and January, Hield is finishing strong. He posted 24.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in the month of February and the numbers continue to climb in March.
Although the sample size is small, Hield is averaging 24.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 36.2 minutes through three games in March.
Joerger has slowly increased Hield's minutes and it’s likely that he’ll play even more down the stretch as the Kings attempt to contend for a postseason berth.
There are two key areas where Hield has improved as a scorer. First, Hield is getting to the line and secondly, he continues to hoist 3-pointers at a record-breaking pace.
Last season, Hield shot 81 free throw attempts in 80 games. He had 43 games where he didn’t attempt a single free throw. For a player with elite scoring ability, that is completely unacceptable.
Hield showed improvement through the first four months of the season, but for a player averaging over 20 points per game, the numbers still weren't where they should be.
In the month of January, Hield averaged just 1.2 free throw attempts per game, but that number has jumped in both February and early March. Hield made it to the line for 4.5 attempts in February and he’s already attempted 25 free throws through three games in March.
Hield is 27-for-27 over his last four games for an average of a little less than seven attempts per game and he has a streak of 28 consecutive makes.
While Hield is getting to the rim and drawing fouls in the lane, he’s made the most strides on the perimeter. Over the Kings previous four games, Hield has been fouled shooting a 3-pointer five times.
Hield is looking for the foul. He’s getting his defender out of position and making sure the officials see the contact. In previous seasons, Hield has shied away from contact in these situations, but not anymore.
The former Oklahoma Sooner star can continue to improve in this area. He’s pushed his season average to 2.5 free throws per game, where he’s shooting an outstanding 87.6 percent.
In addition to getting to the line, Hield has become a juggernaut from behind the arc.
He has increased his volume of 3-pointers from 5.1 attempts last year to 7.6 this season, he has also improved his percentage from 43.1 percent to 44.2 percent.
Hield is now on pace to hit nearly 277 3-pointers this season. If he continues at his current clip, he still has a shot at surpassing Damian Lillard’s NBA record of 599 made 3-pointers through the first three years of his career.
At 216 3-point makes this season, Hield is just 24 away from the Kings’ franchise record of 240, set by Peja Stojakovic during the 2003-04 season.
Coming into the season, there were questions as to whether Hield had hit his ceiling. Through 64 games, Sacramento’s starting shooting guard has not only crushed expectations; he continues to improve in crucial areas and the numbers suggest there is still room for improvement.