A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Will Buddy Hield be an NBA star?

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Buddy Hield continued his torrid play with 37 points to lead Oklahoma to the Final Four. With mock drafts wide open after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, Hield’s play could lead towards a top 3 pick.

Hield’s run comes at the perfect time for him. With Stephen Curry at the peak of powers it’s hard not to compare his run to Curry’s as an older, elite shooting, hard working prospect at Davidson.

To look closer at this comparison here are their per 40 minute stats their draft year:

Curry (junior): 34.0 points, .60 TS%, 5.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 3.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 4.4 turnovers

Hield (senior): 28.9 points, .67 TS%, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks, 3.3 turnovers

Unlike Hield Curry was elite in another category but scoring, in steals. Hield’s best performances compared to Curry are rebounds and blocks, but these are partly explained by playing the bigger defensive position SG.

While PG is a more assists friendly position than SG, the gap is a little too big to be explained by that. The median per 40 assist rate of seven PGs I chose in Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, is 6.5. The same for seven SGs in James Harden, Dwyane Wade, DeMar Derozan, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, C.J. McCollum, Brandon Roy is 4.3 assists. Therefore Curry’s assists compared to his position is stronger. While Hield’s role was to be an off the ball scorer, this could also be reflective of Hield lacking ballhandling skills that has made Curry such a success.

I find scoring a tricky category due to the impact of age and conference. With less talent on his team at Davidson Curry was able to have a major role immediately. As a freshman he averaged 27.8 points on .62 TS% per 40, as a sophomore 31.2 points on .64 TS% and as junior 34.0 points on .60 TS%. Hield as a freshman averaged just 12.8 points on .47 TS% per 40 minutes, followed by 20.6 points on .57 as a sophomore and 21.5 points on .55 TS% as a junior.

To make another comparison to other sharpshooters in this class, Jamal Murray averaged 22.7 points per 40 on .59 TS%. As a freshman Grayson Allen averaged 19.1 points on .58 TS% per 40 and as a sophomore 24.0 points on .62 TS%. As freshman and sophomores they outscored Hield. The problem with using Hield’s scoring as a reason to draft him over Murray and Allen is it’s not a big leap to say they were on trajectory to match Hield’s senior scoring rate of 28.9 points on .67 TS% per 40 if they stayed in school long enough.

As a whole I don’t believe the numbers support Hield as a top 5 pick. He is not as dominant in categories like rebounding, assists, steals or blocks as some other prospects in the class and overweighting scoring numbers that blew up for a senior compared to freshman and sophomore prospects, has burned teams in the past.

But the Curry comparison may work in another way. The real story of Curry falling to #7 in 2009 is underestimating his talent. At the time 2009 was considered a 1 star draft, with Blake Griffin having athletic gifts that players like Curry and James Harden lacked. We know now you can’t teach how to shoot like Curry any more than teaching a player to be as athletic as Russell Westbrook. Nor is Harden’s combination of elite size for a SG but the dribbling and passing of a PG, any more common than Griffin level athleticism.

This is where the case for Hield may be. What he lacks in only having good, not great athleticism, may be made up for special talent as a shooter. This talent could be as powerful as dynamic athleticism is for others. Hield is having arguably the best shooting season since Curry. While in a vacuum 46% 3pt shooting could be a hot streak, two important ways to legitimizing shooting is FT% and volume of 3s attempted. Hield is even more impressive in those than he is in 3p%, as an 89% FT shooter who attempts 10 3s per 40 minutes. Visually his shooting release and confidence taking them anywhere passes the sniff test. Hield has an average wingspan of 6’8.5 for a SG, but a better than average body. His last measured 215 pounds is the weight of a SF, not SG. His mental attributes are considered terrific in both basketball IQ and work ethic/character, which some see as talent. The shooting is the foundation of his game but decent athleticism, plus strength and top level mental talent all around, could add enough to make him a star talent. Perhaps it’s enough to be the most talented player in the draft.

At the end of the day however, the numbers still make it a risk. Hield may be properly rated by accident, with worse numbers than conventional opinion but more star-level talent. There’s definitely a world where he pays off big time for the team who picks him, but also one where the numbers were prescient.


Written by jr.

March 27, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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