PROJECTED DRAFT RANGE: Hield made a steady climb on the major draft boards, thanks to his brilliant senior campaign. He’s now No. 5 overall and the top shooting guard prospect on ESPN Insider Chad Ford’s Big Board, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress pegs him at No. 7. He’s firmly ahead of the other college seniors on their draft boards. NBA.com’s David Aldridge also ranks Hield No. 1 among shooting guards. Hield could go as high as No. 4, according to Ford, who doubts that Hield will slip past the No. 7 slot.
RISE/FALL: Freshman phenoms Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are expected to be the top two picks in the draft and it’s difficult to see that changing. As a well-established player with a proven track record, Hield could conceivably inch his way up to No. 3. International teenage power forward Dragan Bender is ranked third by both Ford and Givony but he posted modest stats in Israel and will have to prove himself in predraft evaluations and workouts. Hield could also benefit from the teams in the third or fourth spot having a major need for a shooter. On the flip side, Hield’s defensive shortcomings, relative lack of size for his position and penchant for turnovers could make him slide a few notches. Most NBA analysts agree that Hield is not a superstar talent and that’s what most teams at the top half of the lottery are seeking.
FIT: Quality shooters like Hield can enjoy long careers in the current NBA landscape. The increased emphasis on 3-point shooting makes him a prized commodity. Virtually every team with a projected Top 10 lottery pick could use a player like Hield to stretch the defense. The Sixers need outside shooting to complement their stash of young big men. The Lakers, should they wind up with the No. 3 pick, desperately need a shooter to pair up in the backcourt with D’Angelo Russell. The Kings have been seeking a quality shooting guard for years. The Celtics, Timberwolves and Nuggets all rank in the bottom 10 in 3-point percentage. The Bucks could give themselves a formidable 1-2 wing punch with Khris Middleton and Hield. The Pelicans have all kinds of question marks at the guard spots, considering their injury and free agent situations.
FINAL TAKE: Hield could have been drafted in the first round last season but his decision to go back to school will pay off handsomely. He’s a surefire Top 10 selection and should be an immediate rotation player for the team that drafts him. According to Ford, Hield is comparable to the Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum, who developed into a 20-point scorer in his third NBA season. Hield is not a transcendent talent but he can be a starter on a championship-caliber team.
(For Part 1 of Buddy Hield’s Prospect Profile, click here.)