Expectations are high in Sacramento. The Kings have a team objective of making it to the NBA postseaon for the first time since 2005-06, but players still have individual goals as well.
Buddy Hield, for one, is ready to build off his breakout campaign last season. He’s not content with just being one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA.
Hield wants more.
“Just grow, man, grow,” Hield told NBC Sports California ahead of the team's departure for India. “Try to find ways to be more efficient. Try to find ways to get to the foul line more. The little stuff, you know and that’s the hardest stuff right there. You can be a 20-point scorer, but how can you be a 25-point scorer?”
Part of Hield’s summer training included a few days working out with teammate De’Aaron Fox at Kobe Bryant’s camp in Southern California. The 26-year-old shooting guard is looking for any advantage possible as he tries to increase his team-high 20.7 points per game from last season.
“You’ve just gotta stay humble, keep working, keep on improving, learn from the coaches and just be ready to have a better season,” Hield said. “You want to show improvement.”
One of the crucial areas that Hield can continue to help the team is from the 3-point line. He set a team record with 278 makes last year, but that might be a new starting point. A 42.7 percent shooter from distance, the Kings wouldn’t mind the fourth-year guard shooting even more, as long as they are in the flow in the offense.
“I’m still a believer -- let's get good shots,” coach Luke Walton said over the weekend. “But good shots for some people now are what I always considered bad shots.”
Hield will likely have what Walton calls a “neon green light” in the Kings’ offense. It would be similar to what Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had when Walton coached them with the Warriors.
Filling in for Steve Kerr during the first half of the 2015-16 season, Walton managed to post a 39-4 record as Golden State's interim coach. He allowed Curry and Thompson to play to their strengths, and the duo combined to shoot 678-for-1536 (44.1 percent) from long range that season
“For some people, anytime they shoot the ball, it’s a good shot if you can get them a look,” Walton said.
If Walton runs plays for Hield like the Warriors did for Thompson, the Bahamian guard could easily see an increase from his 650 3-point attempts last season.
Even a bump of one attempt per game would equate to roughly 1.3 points per game, as long as Hield's 3-point percentage didn’t drop. If he can get closer to two more attempts per game, Hield would likely average over 23 points per game before improving any other aspect of his scoring.
This is a big year for Hield. He has yet to sign an extension with the Kings and could walk into next summer as a restricted free agent. He has already proven to be one of the best 3-point shooters in the league and if he can continue to improve other aspects of his game, there is no telling where his value might go on the open market.
You want your players to stay hungry. Hield isn’t content with the season he had last season, like most of the young Kings. He wants more, and judging by his breakout season, there still might be room for improvement.