OVERVIEW: Buddy Hield demonstrated the benefits of staying in school and working on his game over a four-year period. The 6’4” shooting guard emerged as one of the Big 12’s best players as a sophomore and could have made the jump to the pros in each of the past two years. He chose to return to school both times and finished his college career with a marvelous senior campaign, leading Oklahoma to the Final Four. He averaged 25.0 points, second only to Howard’s James Daniel. Hield reached the 30-point mark a dozen times, including a 46-point explosion against Kansas that catapulted him into the national spotlight. He also had a 36-point outing against VCU and a 37-point outburst against No. 1 seed Oregon during the NCAAs and split up awards for the nation’s top player with Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine.
STRENGTHS: Hield improved from an above-average shooter during his first three college seasons to a nearly unstoppable force in his senior year. His overall field-goal percentage jumped from 41.6% to a whopping 49.6%, a stunning leap for a player who faced a variety of defensive strategies designed to shut him down. His 3-point percentage spiked upward in similar fashion, from 37.1% to 46.4%, and he averaged four makes per game. He’s adept at coming off screens or spotting up and makes defenses pay for any space given to him. He also has the body to succeed at the next level — long, athletic and yet powerful for his size. Not surprisingly, he’s an outstanding free-throw shooter and also rebounds well for his position, pulling down 5.6 boards per game as a senior. Topping off the checklist is his high character. As one talent evaluator told NBA.com’s David Aldridge, he’s an “elite shooter, elite human being.”
WEAKNESSES: For all of his offensive gifts, Hield does not shine at the defensive end. As Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress details in his evaluation of Hield, the NBA leans toward bigger wings who can guard multiple positions. Hield’s size limits his ability to switch defensively and he’s not adept at creating for others offensively. Hield’s passing metrics ranked third-worst among the 45 college guards or wings in Givony’s top 100 rankings. That’s part of the reason why Hield averaged 3.0 turnovers as a senior, a subpar figure for a shooting guard. He has improved as an off-the-dribble shooter, as Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress notes, but he still needs to attack more often and become a better finisher at the rim, according to ESPN Insider Chad Ford. These shortcomings are why Aldridge, through the talent evaluators he spoke with, believes that Hield is more of a complementary piece than a superstar talent that can turn around a franchise.
(For Part Two of our Buddy Hield Draft Analysis, click here.)