Can Buddy Hield have a Devin Booker like season?
After a monstrous senior season leading the Oklahoma Sooners to the final four, the New Orleans Pelicans used the 7th overall pick on Buddy Hield in hopes that he can develop into the perfect running mate to complement Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans, who have struggled putting adequate talent around Davis, are hoping that Hield turns to more of a solid second option rather than a spot up shooter, which most scouts believed he would be. The most concerning issue that tainted Hield’s draft stock was the fact that he was a senior when he finally realized his true collegiate potential.
During the preseason, Hield displayed what everyone expected, threes on threes on threes, just not on the same level or volume he did in college. As expected with any rookie and it also being a very young season, Hield has not struggled per se, but has had a pretty rough start to his inaugural NBA season, averaging a pedestrian 8.7 points per game on a rough 31.7% from the field and 21.2% from three.
Hield has yet to adjust to the NBA three point line, which is expected for someone like Buddy who has practiced and shot on the collegiate three point line for four long years, but we can assume that he will adjust to it and raise his efficiency significantly.
It is important to constantly say that it is a very young season because anything can happen from here. Maybe Hield doesn’t adjust to the NBA level and ends up as a decent role player in the future, or maybe he becomes the coveted second option the Pelicans and Davis have been hoping for.
However, with the Pelicans horrific start to the 2016 - 2017 NBA season, losing all of their first six games, it only seems logical for them to develop Hield and hope that he lives up and exceeds his potential. This could allow Buddy Hield to have a Devin Booker type season.
Last season, Booker significantly struggled early on in his first season, only putting up 6.4 points per game up to December. His struggles were bound to happen since he was the youngest player in the league at the time. However, no matter the age, rookies still experience the same growing pains and still have to adjust to the physicality, speed, and talent in the NBA.
At the start the new year, the Suns decided to let Booker take over the offense as most of their players were injured and the Suns were not going to compete for the playoffs so it only seemed right to develop their young prospect. In the month of January, Booker averaged an outstanding 17.3 points per night on an efficient 44.9% from the field and 35.2% from deep.
So how does this relate to Hield?
Well, Buddy Hield could potentially be in the same position as Booker was. The Pelicans are clearly not going to compete for a playoff spot especially in the West, and the depth at the two guard position is pretty shallow. In addition, the injury history for their best players is not promising at all.
Jrue Holiday is going to miss a significant amount of the season to aid his recovering wife, and Tyreke Evans is still recovering from nagging knee injuries. But also Anthony Davis, who is tearing up the NBA averaging a whopping 30 points in six seasons, has had a lengthy injury list. I am in no way wishing that they get injured, I am just using history to present the fact that they could.
With all this in mind, Buddy Hield could see the ball in his hands once again if the organization decides to tank the season and develop their rookie shooting guard. If he were to develop alongside a healthy Anthony Davis, I believe that Hield could potentially have an even better rookie season than Booker had.
With Davis manning the middle, defenses will have to focus on him, fearing that he could drop 50 points on any defender. This would allow Hield to search for easier shots, getting a lot of spot up opportunities when defenders focus on Davis.
One nack on Devin’s rookie season was the dip in efficiency he had when the Suns ran their offense through him, which seems inevitable as defences focus on stopping him. With defensive schemes designed around stopping Davis, Hield can feed off this and potentially put up buckets, while also shooting efficiently from the field.
Can Buddy Hield post the same stats that he did in his senior year in college?
Probably not, but he Hield can have a very solid rookie season, maybe even do enough to win rookie of the year due to Ben Simmons’ injury and all the other rookies not getting the same opportunity as Hield. If anything, I can potentially envision Buddy Hield averaging around 14 or 15 points per game on a decent 43% to 45% from the field and 37% to maybe 40% from downtown.
Again, Hield is still a developing rookie despite his age and the season is still in its adolescence. Holiday and Evans are still not back and Davis is still healthy as of right now. Maybe this all changes, but as of right now the Pelicans need to understand that Hield is one of their future investments and have to see what he has to offer.