Kings

Kings player profile: How Buddy Hield can build on breakout season

Kings player profile: How Buddy Hield can build on breakout season

What a difference a season makes. Buddy Hield wasn’t even scheduled to start for the Kings last season when training camp opened, but a late summer knee injury to Bogdan Bogdanovic opened a door.

Hield took strides in every category for the Kings, including scoring, 3-point shooting and as a leader behind the scenes. His latest venture to fund raise for his native Bahamas is just another step in the maturation of a young player as he becomes a veteran player.

Entering the final year of his rookie-scale contract, Hield has plenty to prove this season. He was tremendous for Sacramento last season, but he’ll need to do it again if he wants to maximize his next contract.

Hield will have every opportunity to lead the Kings in scoring for a second consecutive season, but with the team’s depth, he has to be more than just a scorer. 

Strengths

Hield is a tireless worker and one of the best 3-point shooters in the game. Not only can he hit from anywhere, but he’s managed to keep his long range percentage consistent despite a huge increase in volume. Through three seasons in the league, Hield has hit a remarkable 602 3-pointers, which is a league record and he’s a career 41.9 percent shooter from behind the arc.

In addition to shooting, Hield can score with the best of them. He led Sacramento at 20.7 points per game last season and he notched 20 or more points in 44 out of 82 games last season, including seven games over 30 points.

Hield loves to get out on the break and finishes at the rim at a 67.1 percent clip. He’s also a very solid mid-range shooter, knocking down 41.4 percent from 10-16 feet and 44.6 percent from 16 feet to the 3-point line.

A track star growing up, Hield finished fifth in the league in miles run per game at 2.67 and his 4.71 was tops amongst NBA regulars. 

Not just a flashy scorer, Hield averaged five rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He’s improved greatly as a defender, especially outside the 3-point line where he held his opponents to -1.5 percent on the season, although he has plenty of room for growth.

Weaknesses

Hield posted consistent numbers all season long for Sacramento, but there is even more he can give as a scorer. As an elite shooter, Hield needs to be even more selfish at times. The Kings score 1.28 points per 3-point shot attempts from their starting shooting guard, which makes him a game changer.

From 3-10 feet, Hield shot just 24 percent on 121 attempts last year. Both of those numbers are bad news for Sacramento. Hield needs to work on a floater or just try harder to draw contact if he finds himself stuck in this range. The other option is to find a teammate or just realize that his is an area of weakness and avoid it.

Hield was a liability as a ball handler in his first season, but he’s worked to improve. There are times when he over dribbles, but that comes with being a scorer. With zero dribbles, Hield shoots 50.6 percent. When he puts the ball on the floor for 3-6 bounces, his percent dips to 40.4 percent.

There is always room to improve on the defensive side of the ball and Hield is no exception. He’s taken huge steps in his awareness, but he still struggles against elite guards. Opposing offenses have worked to isolate Hield as a defender, which will continue if he doesn’t make strides forward.

While Hield was strong defending outside the 3-point line and held his own outside of 15 feet, he needs to show improvement overall. Adding defensive pieces around him should help and he expends plenty of energy on the offensive end. 

During his second season, Hield averaged 1.5 steals per 36 minutes, but that number dropped to .8 last season. He needs to gamble a little more in the passing lanes and be more active on the defensive end overall.

Path to Improvement

While Hield improved in almost every facet of the game, he still has room to grow. He finished fifth in the NBA in 3-point field goal attempts with 651, but James Harden beat him by 377 attempts. He could average another one or two attempts per game, which would push his scoring average between 1.3 and 2.6 points per game.

Hield is a career 87.4 percent shooter from the free throw line. He improved his attempts from one a game to 2.4 from year two to year three, but he’s still leaving more on the board. There are times where Hield avoids contact, but he needs to learn from Lou Williams how to draw the foul on the 3-point attempt.

On the defensive end, Hield has to get better. If he wants to play 32-34 minutes, he’ll need to find a way to improve because De’Aaron Fox and Cory Joseph are both above average defenders and can steal minutes at the two, especially in late game situations.

Lasty, Hield isn’t usually asked to initiate the offense, but he has room to grow as a passer. He draws a lot of attention with his ability to score and that opens a lot of opportunities for his teammates as well. If he can develop further as a passer, especially in the pick-and-roll, it will equate to more wins for the team.

Projection

Hield is either walking into the season with a giant contract extension or trying to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. He’s an outstanding shooter and Luke Walton’s offense is perfect for his game.

He can do more on the defensive end and as a passer, but Hield is a pure shooter with a motor that won’t quit. He has an opportunity to not only match his numbers from last season, but take another step forward in his progress.

The Kings are deeper this year and players are going to be fighting for shots. Hield will get his fair share as a No. 2 option with the starters, but with Fox, Marvin Bagley and Harrison Barnes in the starting lineup, there are a lot of mouths to feed.

[RELATED: Barnes, Team USA advance at World Cup]

An early prediction has Hield averaging around 21-22 points, five rebounds and three assists. He’ll shoot above 42 percent from long range and shoot close to 10 3-point attempts per game this season in Walton’s uptempo style.

He’ll score in bunches and be one of the main cogs in the Kings’ system. He’ll also get a nice payday for his services.

Kings' Harrison Barnes generously pays for Atatiana Jefferson's funeral

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Kings' Harrison Barnes generously pays for Atatiana Jefferson's funeral

Harrison Barnes signed a long-term contract that will keep him in Sacramento for the next four seasons, but before he joined the Kings, Barnes spent two-and-a-half years in Dallas as a member of the Mavericks.

The Kings forward still feels a connection to his previous home city, and that was extremely evident through the generous gesture Barnes and his wife made to the family of Atatiana Jefferson, a Dallas-area woman who recently was shot and killed by a police officer while in her own home.

Jefferson had been looking after her eight-year-old nephew when the officer, Aaron Dean, arrived at her open-door home and opened fire without announcing he was a policeman. The 28-year-old Jefferson was shot and killed, and Dean since has been charged with murder.

It's a terrible, heartbreaking situation for Jefferson's family, and Barnes sought to make things easier on them during these trying times by paying for her funeral.

"The biggest thing is, anytime someone has to go through that, the last thing you want to have to worry about is trying to come up with the money for a funeral," Barnes explained Thursday. "It's about the family, it's about everything they're going through. Our prayers are obviously with them, and it was a gesture my wife and I wanted to do for them.

"It was unfortunate. It should never happen," Barnes continued. "Just in general, gun violence in Dallas, recently. Andre Emmett, a guy that I played pickup basketball with for two-and-a-half straight summers -- another unfortunate incident. So when you see these type of situations continue to occur, you know that change needs to happen."

Barnes understands that while he's a basketball player by profession, he has a role to play that goes beyond the court.

[RELATED: Hield extension talks cast momentary dark cloud over Kings]

"I think that any time you come to a community, whether it's Sacramento, whether it's Dallas, whether it's Oakland, Chapel Hill or Ames, you always have a piece of that community that's with you and you always want to try to give back."

Buddy Hield contract extension talks cast momentary dark cloud over Kings

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Buddy Hield contract extension talks cast momentary dark cloud over Kings

SACRAMENTO -- "Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again."

Whether it’s the soothing harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel or the powerful bellowing of Disturbed frontman David Draiman, the opening lines of the "Sound of Silence" are ringing in my ears.

For more than a decade, drama finds the Sacramento Kings, whether they are looking for it or not. Often times the wounds are self-inflicted. Every once in a while, the issues are nothing more than the complexities of the NBA playing out in real-time.

Buddy Hield wants his money. His agent says so. He says so. Twitter says so.

Hield’s team has gone on the record with the number of $110 million over four-years to seal the deal. The Kings will not confirm whether the reported four-year, $90 million figure that has been put out there is top end for the team.

Sacramento had a similar situation last season when big man Willie Cauley-Stein went public with his wishes to get paid. Again, the two situations are similar ... but really they aren’t.

Hield accomplished last season what Cauley-Stein never could in purple and black. He lived up to his lottery billing and became a consistent impact player on the court for the Kings.

Part of the team’s exciting young core, Hield has made it his offseason mission to get locked up long term. In doing so, he is making things as uncomfortable as possible for general manager Vlade Divac and his staff.

Will it work? Will slaying the drama mean more to the franchise than the long term financial flexibility they have worked so hard to build? That is the $110 million question.

The Kings are on the clock and Hield has started to get personal.

The talented shooting guard has asked for what he believes is fair, but the value is in the eye of the beholder. During his post-game comments on Wednesday evening, he invoked two separate ideas that take aim at not only the franchise but his standing amongst his teammates as well.

"Name one big free agent that came to Sacramento," Hield told the larger media scrum. "I've been here three years trying to grow the program, grow the organization and I feel like I could be rewarded close to that. But that's just me. That's my gut feeling."

Long an NBA outpost, the good people of Sacramento, regardless of who is running the franchise, know where they stand in the tall pecking order of the league. Landing an 'A list' free agent has never been on the table.

While it’s a matter for some debate, Divac himself is likely the top free agent the team has brought in during the team’s 35 years in Sacramento. The franchise has found success bringing back their own big-name free agents, like Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber and Mike Bibby. But they haven’t been able to crack into the superstar free-agent market.

That leaves the franchise with two options: Draft potential stars and hope for the best or acquire talent via trade and hope for the best.

Hield is a combination of both. Sacramento didn’t draft him, but they traded for him during his rookie season and spent the last three seasons helping to develop him into the player he is today.

In addition to taking a shot at a sensitive issue for the franchise he plays for, Hield went where most players don’t want to go. He compared himself to his teammates and what might happen for them in the near future.

“It’s all about value and where they see me as a player and of course, if another young player comes up and they give them what they want, it shows how much they value me,” Hield told NBC Sports California following the main media scrum.

Hield is pointing directly at the franchise and how they might value De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. Creating a list of who mom and dad like the best doesn’t work for siblings. In the NBA world, it’s a good way to get your feelings hurt.

Speaking to people within the walls of the Golden 1 Center, they understand that all of this is part of the process.

They still love Buddy Hield. They still view him as a big part of the franchise. This is just another day out of many in the history of the Kings and it too shall pass.

It should also be noted that Hield is fighting to stay in a Kings' uniform. He is asking the team to lock him up for the next five seasons in Sacramento so he can put permanent roots. He has visions of buying a house in the area and making this his NBA home. 

Between now and Oct. 21, Hield will either get an extension or he won’t. He is emotional about the process. He wants financial stability. He wants respect. He wants to know that he is just as important to the recent success of the franchise as anyone else. All of this is understandable.

[RELATED: Kings, Hield $20M apart in contract extension talks]

At the end of the day, this is a negotiation. The NBA is a business and it shouldn’t get personal. If a deal doesn’t get done now, the two sides have another bite at the apple at the end of the season.

The next few days building to the deadline could get wild, but like so many other situations with the Kings, the darkness will pass soon enough. A resolution, one way or another, will happen and the focus will shift to basketball and the task at hand.