As has been said time and time again this season, Buddy Hield has struggled. After breaking out last year, he has not exactly improved upon nor duplicated his success from last season. I don’t know if it’s been from the plethora of injuries around him, pressure from a new contract, or some other unknown reason, but his shooting percentage has gone down and his poor decisions have increased.[table “23” not found /]
Although Hield hasn’t looked like the Buddy that Kings fans were used to watching, he has turned things around since the start of the calendar year. That also happened to be the time when Walton started to pick up the PACE after playing the majority of the year as a half court team.[table “24” not found /]
As you can see, Buddy has been solid in the month of January as he has increased his points per game and his shooting percentage.
Despite Hield picking up the slack offensively, it still wasn’t enough as Buddy continued to play atrocious defense. Walton finally had to put his foot down, moving Hield to the bench two games ago.
Fans wondered how the shooting guard would deal with the decision and his new role as a sixth man. But the simple fact is: they need not worry.[table “25” not found /]
Even in a small sample size of two games, Buddy has absolutely dominated off of the bench. He is scoring more points than minutes played and shooting over 60% from deep! On top of that, his defense has looked stellar, posting a defensive rating of 104.9 and an unbelievable offensive rating of 123.4.
In his last contest, he scored 42 points off of 24 shots, sank nine long balls, and dedicated his performance to his idol, Kobe Bryant.
It’s kind of peculiar that since moving to the starting role, Bogdan Bogdanovic hasn’t had the same success as he had coming off the bench. It’s as if the best two guard play, as opposed to the play of the other four positions, originates from the bench.
I would expect Hield to return to a starting role by the end of the season, but only when he has proven to show consistent maturity and higher basketball IQ.
Hield has talent, and Kings fans have been waiting all year to see these kind of performances. With the shooting guard finding his rhythm and the team being 5.5 games out of a playoff seed, the Kings can make one last playoff push, but man, they’re going to have to be pretty close to perfect from here on out.