Even during Buddy Hield’s breakout 2018-19 season, Hield and Kings head coach Dave Joerger never were on the same page.
Joerger left and general manager Vlade Divac was the next person who struggled to get on the same page with the high-scoring guard. Even a four-year, $86 million contract extension didn’t improve the relationship.
Luke Walton also struggled to find common ground with Hield last season after taking over for Joerger. He even sent Hield to the bench midway through the season, a move that did not sit well with the team’s second-leading scorer.
Walton is still coaching the Kings, but it appears that new general manager Monte McNair is the one focused on working through some of the issues behind the scenes.
“I’ve talked with Buddy, as well as his agent, I think we’re all on the same page,” McNair told local media members Monday afternoon. “I think we’re really excited to see Buddy kind of let free in this system. I think he’s going to be fantastic.”
If the Kings play an up-tempo style, like they repeatedly have said they would this season, then Hield is a great fit. He’s one of the best shooters in the NBA and his work ethic off the court is second to none.
“Buddy is such an incredible talent, especially his shooting is at an elite level,” McNair said. “[That] is something we saw this offseason was at a premium. I think we’re really excited to see him in this system.”
Hield averaged 19.2 points per game this season, down from the 20.7 he averaged the season before. He struggled slightly with his perimeter shooting, dropping just below 40 percent for the first time in his career, but he still managed to hoist 9.6 triples per game in Walton’s system.
If he can come into camp with the right mindset and the Kings get out and run, he could be in for another strong statistical season in Sacramento. Bogdan Bogdanovic is no longer ahead of him on the depth chart after the Serbian-born wing joined the Atlanta Hawks during free agency, but that doesn’t mean that Hield is the only one vying for minutes next to De’Aaron Fox.
It might not be long before Hield will once again start hearing footsteps coming for his job. Sacramento spent the No. 12 pick in the draft on rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton with the idea of eventually pairing him with Fox in the starting backcourt.
What all of this means for Hield is unknown at this time. Haliburton will need time to adjust to the NBA, but he’s already set his sights on being the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.
If Haliburton’s play on the court matches his confidence off the court or if the Kings get off to a slow start, the possibility of him getting more opportunities to gain experience on the floor will only improve.
For now, Hield is the likely starter at the shooting guard position when the season opens in December. Once the season tips off, the Kings’ success, or lack thereof, will likely dictate how minutes are distributed in the backcourt.