The Sacramento Kings have made a number of moves going back to last season. The franchise sought to continue a rebuild following last season’s trade of disgruntled franchise cornerstone, DeMarcus Cousins. This past offseason the franchise chose to spend much of its available cap space to bring in new players. The decision was made to bring in capable veterans and supplement a talented but young team that is not quite ready to compete at a top level.
To effectuate the above plan, the Kings signed George Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to contracts of varying length (three, two and one year, respectively). These vertans joined a young core featuring De’Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein, Bogdan Boganovic and Buddy Hield, among others. The goal was to have the veterans help guide the younger players, show them how to be true professionals and win more games than the youngsters could on their own.
Unfortunately, the plan hasn’t worked out so far as the team is falling out of contention quickly. The team hasn’t given up as they’re 4-6 in their last 10 games, but they have much better odds of winning the lottery than they do of making the playoffs at this point.
Despite the disappointing record, one bright spot this season has been the continuing development of Hield. At the time of the trade, both the Kings general manager Vlade Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive made it clear they thought highly of Hield.
“He’s [a] talented guy,” Divac said. “His work ethic is exactly what we want here.”
Around the same time, Ranadive reportedly said that he believes Hield has “Steph Curry potential.”
It’s not fair to compare Hield to a player of Curry’s caliber (a champion, MVP and probably the greatest three-point shooter of all time and a future hall of famer). However, Curry’s teammate, shooting guard Klay Thompson, who has played directly against Hield and also comes from a Bahamian background, spoke highly of Hield.
“He’s the next great,” Thompson said of Hield after an early season game. “I’m really proud of Buddy. People don’t realize he has a whole country [The Bahamas] watching. That’s a lot of responsibility and he’s not going to disappoint because he works so hard.”
In a recent podcast, Hield confirmed that he works hard on developing his game, which helps generate confidence in himself.
“You willing it and putting yourself in situations to make yourself better. You can go to everybody and ask them for advice. All of that is good but you got to put the work in,” Hield said. “You got to make yourself believe. I got to go out there and make stuff happen. Because if you don’t make stuff happen, nothing is going to happen.”
In spite of Hield’s potential and work ethic, it’s not hard to notice that his statistics don’t jump off the computer screen. His scoring average is actually down to 12.3 points per games after averaging 15.1 points last season. This can be attributed mostly to the fact that he playing roughly seven minutes less per game. Per 36 minutes, his scoring, rebounding, assists are all up from last year. In addition, his three-point and free throw shooting percentages have also improved, although his two-point shooting has dropped. Hield was asked about what he thinks about his statistics recently.
“When it comes to numbers and how I’m playing, I just don’t like to really talk about it. You know I don’t like to be too high or too low or overconfident. I want to keep that same mindset every day,” Hield stated. “Let my work stand for itself.”
The drop in playing time can be explained by the infusion of veterans and competition at the two guard spot from Garrett Temple (who has been starting at shooting guard recently), Fox and Bogdanovic. Hield spoke highly of Bogdanovic.
“He’s been one of the few that really helped me to like expand my game, on how I can get open better,” Hield said.
Now in his second season, Hield has again bounced back and forth between a starting and bench role. This season he has settled into a more consistent bench role after beginning the season as a starter. When asked whether being a starter or a bench player mattered, Hield didn’t mince words.
“It doesn’t matter,” Hield stated.
Hield elaborated on his mindset as a bench player and how to be successful in that role.
“When you come in, just ball. Have the mindset, just ball. And don’t worry whether I’m starting or not,” Hield stated. “Just go out there and do your job, do everything you can do to help your team.”
As a second-year player, Hield made it clear that the way he sees the game has changed and that he has benefited from this.
“[T]hings start to slow down. You start to understand the game more,” Hield stated. “You start to pick and choose where you’re going to score in spots and be a better player in the league.”
Finally, Hield boiled down the keys to being successful.
“You can make sure you can guard and defend. I feel like you’re going to be on the court longer,” Hield stated while adding. “And the ability to score.”
The franchise took a risk by signing multiple veterans to come in and help create a winning environment in Sacramento. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet and the team has suffered through far too many blow-out losses. When the team will turn things around is not clear but Hield’s work ethic, attitude and development is a bright spot in a tough season so far for the Kings.
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