Editor's note: This is the seventh installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.
Buddy Hield walked into the 2019-20 season with a new contract and plenty still to prove. But even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown, the year had not gone as planned for the Kings’ flashy shooting guard.
After signing a huge contract extension in the offseason, Hield struggled to start the season. He looked more like himself late in the year, but not before he already had lost his starting job and a little bit of the moxie that had made him so good the season before.
General manager Vlade Divac has stated publicly that he believes his squad is better than their record, but he’ll need to get creative to keep the team together.
With other pressing needs, is there a chance the Kings look to trade Hield?
Nuts and Bolts
Hield got his payday in October. He’ll start a fresh, four-year, $86 million contract next season, with a starting salary around $26.4 million and incentives that can push the contract well over the $100 million mark overall.
The consensus around the basketball world was that Hield’s contract was a good deal when he signed it, especially since it declines in value by eight percent per year.
But the NBA has been turned on its head due to the coronavirus. No one will know the true impact on basketball-related income until much later in the year.
Why would the Kings consider trading Hield?
This is complicated. First and foremost, Hield lost his starting job to Bogdan Bogdanovic midway through the season. While Bogdanovic didn’t set the world on fire as a starter, the Kings finished 13-7 in the 20 games with him in the starting five before the shutdown.
If the move is permanent, paying a player $26.4 million to come off the bench is a steep price, especially with the salary cap potentially crashing and the need to pay both Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox this summer.
In addition to his salary, Hield might also have ruffled some feathers around the organization over the last year. He was boisterous and became a distraction during his contract negotiations in training camp, and Hield has not been shy when it comes to being disgruntled about his move to the bench.
Lastly, while Hield is an elite 3-point shooter, he struggles with other aspects of the game. He’s improved as a defender, but still has moments where he struggles. He doesn’t create for others like Bogdanovic does, and his penchant for mistakes at inopportune moments drew the ire of coach Luke Walton on multiple occasions.
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Can Hield regain his starting spot?
Hield and Bogdanovic are two of the closest players on the Kings’ roster. They vacationed together in Serbia two summers ago and Hield has credited Bogdanovic with helping him take huge strides as a player.
Walton repeatedly has said that a significant reason he made the move with Hield heading to the bench and Bogdanovic sliding into the starting lineup was due to the continuity between Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, who played together on the Serbian National team during the offseason.
With Marvin Bagley likely moving back into the starting lineup to start the 2020-21 season, there is potential for both Bogdanovic and Bjelica to pair up with the second unit next year.
Bogdanovic’s free-agent status could play a role in this decision as well, but the third-year guard is a top priority for the Kings when free agency begins. The league has been turned upside down, but that likely won’t change the Kings’ intention to retain the versatile wing.
Would there be a taker for Hield’s contract?
Hield has made 846 career 3-pointers through 308 games, which is an NBA record. He boasts a career shooting percentage of 41.1 percent from 3-point range and he is one of the top perimeter shooters in a league that currently values the triple over everything else.
If the Kings were to consider dealing the 27-year-old shooting guard, there will be takers. They would have to take back multiple contracts, but they should be able to find value if they choose to put him on the block.
The brilliance of a declining scale contract will help the Kings as well. Hield makes plenty of money, but his contract was not outlandish for a player with his skillset before the global pandemic shook the basketball world.
This is a tough one.
Hield is well-liked amongst his teammates, and his work ethic is legendary. But his penchant for making noise when he doesn’t get his way complicates matters.
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The league is about to go through the most difficult stretch of its existence. A team like the Kings already has lost millions in gate revenue and missed concert and event opportunities. There is no guarantee that the season or any sort of normalcy can be saved in the 2020 calendar year.
Hield should be a perfect backcourt fit with Fox, and the Kings have plenty invested in his development. There is a good chance that the Kings give this version of the team one more season to develop with the hopes that a core of Fox, Bogdanovic, Hield, Bagley, Harrison Barnes and Richauan Holmes is better than their 2019-20 showing through 64 games.
Hield’s ability to shoot is not easily replaced, even in a guard and wing-heavy draft. At a minimum, Hield should get another season to make it all work, but nothing is guaranteed with the current state of the league.