Buddy Hield: ‘I think coach making the decision to bring me off the bench was probably the best decision’
Tough times are ahead for your Sacramento Kings this season but with every loss comes an important opportunity for this young Kings team to learn from their mistakes as they progress.
One of those opportunities includes finding where Buddy Hield’s strengths lie in a game. The question is where in the lineup will Buddy Hield be most effective to help the team win ball games?
Starting the game and setting the tempo for the rest of the team or coming off the bench to lead the second unit against lesser talent?
Through eight games, Hield has struggled to find his shot, averaging 38.7 percent from the field and 25.7 percent from beyond the arc.
He just hasn’t looked comfortable out there with his jump shot. His shots hitting the front iron more often than not, easy 15-foot jumpers off the dribble not falling in, even wide-open looks from the corner three haven’t been able to fall.
It’s a process and with time, Hield will learn to create and execute when called upon, otherwise Dave Joerger, who isn’t afraid to look elsewhere for his offensive and defensive production on the court, will have to make a change.
Joerger has always believed on the defensive side of the ball as a first priority, which is a huge reason Hield has stayed in his rotation.
As a starter in seven games this year, Hield has had to face off against Eric Gordon, Wesley Matthews, Gary Harris, Devin Booker, E’Twaun Moore, Bradley Beal, and Victor Oladipo, which are all really good playmakers for their respective teams.
In those games, Hield has limited his opposing shooting guards to a stat line of 15 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists.
Hield wasn’t necessarily guarding these players on every possession, but the majority of his defensive work was against these very tough and creative isolation ball players. He was forcing tough shots, fighting for defensive rebounds time after time, and getting in there poking balls away from opposing players.
Overall, his performance on the defensive end has tremendously improved from last year and something he can pride himself on moving forward.
Hield is a gym rat, notorious for being the first one in the practice facility and last one to leave. You can’t question Buddy’s work ethic and how much time he puts into his craft. That’s not the problem Hield currently faces.
Hield’s biggest issue is himself. Mentally he lets his previous bad possessions or series’ on offense interfere with his next opportunity.
Instead of trying to get in a rhythm during a shooting slump, Hield tends to reflect on his missed attempt during a game rather than focusing on the current possession.
This is only Hield’s second year as a pro, but one note of concern I see in his offensive game is habits in practice. When Hield receives a pass for an open shot, he tends to inherently find the seams on the basketball before releasing the ball from his hand.
While in practice this may not seem like an issue because you have much more time to release your ball, it suddenly becomes an issue once you have all-pro defenders covering your every movement around the court.
That split second trying to find the seams on the ball make a world of difference of getting a clean open shot compared to a highly contested low-percentage shot.
Hield needs to mimic that in-game experience every single day in practice and let the shot go as soon as he has a clean look at the basket instead of trying to get his grip right on the ball.
This was a very similar issue Klay Thompson faced in his first year with the Golden State Warriors and realized the only way he was able to buy time for his shots would be to release the ball at a quicker rate, leaving little time for a defender to react accordingly.
After shooting 28.6 percent from the 3-point line through the first few months of Thompson’s rookie year, he quickly realized that he didn’t have the luxury of time when releasing the ball in the NBA compared to the college game that allowed for you to get away with a slower release.
Thompson improved his release time, overall confidence and saw immediate results in his scoring efficiency averaging 19.1 points, 45.5 percent from the field, and 42 percent from 3-point land in his six years in the NBA.
In Sacramento’s most recent game against the Boston Celtics, Joerger decided to bring Hield off the bench trying to mix and match his lineups that were most effective.
Hield arguably had his best game of the season against the Celtics producing 17 points, seven rebounds, three steals, 63 percent from the field, and 50 percent from long-range in 27 minutes of action.
The sample size is incredibly small at this point but Joerger found a possible silver lining to this Kings’ current slump by bringing Hield off the bench.
After the loss to the Celtics, Kayte Christensen, sideline reporter for the Sacramento Kings, interviewed Hield asking about his breakout game.
“I think coach making the decision to bring me off the bench was probably the best decision,” Hield said. “I think it’s good for me, to help me, slow down a little bit and let the game come to me instead of going out and chasing it.”
This is a testament to who Buddy Hield is not only as a player and teammate, but also as a human being. Hield is very humble about his situation and how far he’s come and still needs to go.
He understands this is a team sport and will do whatever it takes to create a winning culture disregarding any individual accolades that come with his play on the court.
Hield’s competitive fire and humble nature should help bring future success to a Kings team reeling for a winning atmosphere.
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