The NBA Bandwagon You Need to Get On
Sacramento is far and away the most surprising team in the league, and its new starting two guard is a huge reason why.
Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA-EFE, Emojipedia
The below has been excerpted from this week's Outlet Pass, to get caught up on everything else you need to know in the NBA this week read the rest of the column here.
Buddy Hield’s hot start can be explained by absurd shooting numbers. Compared to last year, he’s up 11 percent at the rim, 10 percent from the mid-range, and 6 percent from deep (he made 43.1 percent of his threes in 2018, so, yeah, this dude currently exists as an inferno).
These numbers should come back to Earth—he's averaging 20 points, six boards, and three assists per game—but they're also a sign of his natural progression towards becoming an extremely valuable player type. Hield can shoot on the move, standing still, and pulling up in transition. He can escape-dribble his way into a cringeworthy albeit accurate long two or attack a closeout and then finish strong at the rim.
Even if Hield doesn't sustain his shooting splits (doing so would be super human), players who spend the entirety of a game racing around the court to leverage their gravity in myriad ways are a luxury. Chasing him off the ball for 32 minutes would be my idea of hell on Earth. Last year he averaged 1.95 miles per game, which was about the same as Rockets center Clint Capela. This year he’s at 2.62, trailing only three players in the entire league. Even more wild is Hield’s average speed. He’s one of the 15 fastest players in the league, but everybody who ranks higher doesn’t even cover half as many miles per game as he does.
Defense is a big issue; Hield was repeatedly obliterated by Eric Bledsoe over the weekend. But he’s still only 24 years old, with the stamina and shooting chops to potentially become a more dynamic version of J.J. Redick. This comparison is an absolute best-case scenario but also within the realm of possibility. It should make fans of the New Orleans Pelicans cry themselves to sleep, and fans of the Sacramento Kings feel great knowing their team's backcourt of the future is outscoring opponents by 11 points per 100 possessions when on the floor.
Hield isn't a star, but he doesn't need the ball to have a similar effect. That matters.