Just last night, Buddy Hield was selected 6th overall in the 2016 NBA draft and became a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. This is his story.
Buddy Hield is constantly compared to Steph Curry. It makes sense when you consider his shooting ability, but that’s about where the comparison stops. Steph Curry works incredibly hard, but he’s also incredibly lucky.
From the moment Steph decided to pick up a basketball, he’s had personal trainers, a private court, and an unlimited amount of resources and attention at his fingertips. His father, former NBA sharp-shooter Dell Curry, put him in the ideal position to succeed.
Buddy had no such luck.
Born in the Bahamas to a lower-income family with six other siblings, Buddy never had much to himself. Though he loved basketball, Buddy didn’t always have access to a hoop – never mind his own personal court.
Unwilling to deny his passion for basketball, Buddy tied a food crate to a pole and got to work.
Whatever he did worked, since he just ended his college career shooting 45% from deep on eight attempts per game. Maybe Omer Asik should start practicing his free throws with food crates too?
Buddy’s unbreakable spirit led to some impressive teenage years where he established himself as one of the premier Bahamian prospects. Everyone who crossed paths with Buddy fell in love with his personality and sense of humor. If he wasn’t shooting basketballs into food crates, he was brightening someone’s day or making a new friend.
Dec 25, 2015; Honolulu, HI, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) flashes a “shaka” sign after the game against the Harvard Crimson at the Stan Sheriff Center. Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Harvard Crimson 83-71. Hield was named MVP of the tournament. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports
In 2010, Buddy came to the US to play out his junior year at Sunrise Christian. He started eating like crazy, working out like crazy, and training like crazy.
From his junior year to his college debut, Buddy grew three inches taller and put on almost 20 lbs of weight. He considered the Kansas Jayhawks, but ended up playing for the Oklahoma Sooners in college.
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Buddy was by no means a star his freshman season. After a mildly disappointing 7.8 points per game campaign, he did what he did best and got to work to improve his game.
In his sophomore and junior seasons, Buddy averaged 16.5 and 17.4 points a game respectively, finally establishing himself as a starting level contributor.
That still wasn’t quite good enough for Buddy.
The summer before his senior year he took his game to another level yet again. Buddy averaged a jaw-dropping 25.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game on 45% shooting from deep and 55% from the floor.
You can see his historic shot chart HERE.
For those who love diving into the numbers, Buddy scored 1.3 points per possession in transition, 0.9 as a pick and roll operator, 1.1 in isolations, 1.2 coming off screens, and 1.3 when spotting up. He had an elite 66% true shooting percentage, a 28.2 PER rating, and 7.6 win shares by the end of his senior campaign.
Yesterday, he was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) shows off the inside of his jacket after being selected as the number six overall pick to the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
So, what can Buddy bring to the Pelicans? I’ll give you a hint, the answer isn’t just shooting.
As a Pelicans fan, ask yourself how many times these past three years you’ve been disappointed by this team’s culture.
How many times have you seen Tyreke pouting because he didn’t get the ball? How many times have you watched Eric Gordon carelessly let his man blow past him? How many times have you seen Asik hang his head and look utterly disinterested in playing basketball?
That kind of attitude won’t stand on a team staring Buddy Hield.
He’ll compete to be the first guy in the gym, and stay there long after the rest of the team has left. He won’t ever make excuses, he won’t ever pout, and if his man blows past him it won’t be for a lack of trying on his end.
Buddy is also a great slasher, and a bullet in transition. Sure he gets a good amount of his point from deep, but he also loves cutting to the rim or pushing the ball any chance he gets. Look at this highlight video from his historic 46 point game against the Jayhawks and count how many times he scores by finishing or slashing in transition.
Gentry wants to RUN, and so does Buddy. He scored 22% of his offense in transition and that number should only improve with Gentry at the helm and a real point guard to get him the ball.
One would consider Tyreke and Gordon to be better finishers than Buddy, but that might not be the case. While Tyreke is elite at getting to the rim, he’s actually a below average finisher and shot just 48% in the restricted area. Gordon wasn’t much better, averaging just 50% in the same spot.
Meanwhile, Buddy shot 59% at the rim this past season in the NCAA. Obviously the NBA game is much harder and more physical than college, but his early numbers suggest he’s on a trajectory to become very efficient as a slasher. If anything, the NBA will provide him with more space to attack since he’ll have better shooters around him than he did in college.
Apr 2, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) shoots the ball against Villanova Wildcats guard Phil Booth (5) during the first half in the 2016 NCAA Men
Last but not least, Buddy will do wonders for the Pelicans shooting.
Buddy shot 45% from deep this past year with defenders glued to his skin. He took a hefty 9.8 attempts per 40 minutes and had no hesitation pulling up in transition or off the dribble. The Pelicans have lots of players capable of shooting from deep, but very few players who launch them at a sizable volume.
Despite hiring offensive guru Alvin Gentry as their head coach, the Pelicans were just 16th in the league in three-point attempts and 14th in the league in three-point makes. Buddy will be more than happy to let them fly from deep and do everything he can to improve those numbers as the season goes on.
More than anything, Buddy could become the Pelicans’ emotional leader. Some great players are blessed with the extroverted nature to be the heart and soul of their team, but some simply aren’t. Good examples of such players are LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Draymond Green.
Sadly, Anthony Davis isn’t that type of player. He’s the most talented guy on his roster, but he isn’t the type to carry their emotional load.
That’s fine, lots of great players aren’t. Curry is his team’s best player, but Green takes the helm as the emotional leader.
That allows Curry to feel more comfortable knowing he has an enforcer on the court who will push his teammates forward despite his natural introversion.
That’s what Buddy could be.
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) is interviewed after being selected as the number six overall pick to the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
He’s determined, he’s emotional, he’s relentless, and he finds a way to succeed no matter how badly the odds are stacked against him.
He’s the kind of player you go to war with, and he could be the beating heart the Pelicans have lacked these past years.
Buddy’s journey is a testament to the power of determination. He’s worked unbelievably hard to improve each year of his career and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. His skill-set is remarkable, but it’s his mentality that makes him valuable.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Or, if you’re Buddy Hield, you tie the lemon crate to a pole and shoot the lemons right back into it…..