After handling the Trailblazers on Saturday night, the Kings had a tall order to fill in facing the Toronto Raptors in the second night of a back-to-back. Even after playing the night before, the Kings fought all the way til the end, but boy, it could have ended differently.
After not playing any of the fourth quarter, one might think that Buddy Hield would at least be called into the game with 13.7 seconds left on the clock and the Kings down by 3. Unfortunately, this was not the case and instead, Nemanja Bjelica forced a tough three that ended up being an air ball and practically the end of the game for Sacramento.
Luke’s reason? He said he was going to go to Buddy, but Bogi stepped up. And when he says Bogi stepped up, he means he went 4/10 from the field and 1/6 from deep. Granted, Bogi did hit two big shots towards the end of the game, but why leave Buddy out the whole fourth quarter and why not have both Buddy and Bogi in when a three is direly needed?
It’s bewildering to imagine what Walton was thinking, and after Bjelica’s big missed three, you could even hear a fan yelling: “Luke, you’re an idiot. You have the three point champion. Play him. Where is Buddy?”
This wasn’t just any game either, this was a game in the middle of a playoff race that could have sent Sacramento within three games of the eighth seeded Grizzlies. Now, they sit four games back and one could wonder if things would’ve turned out differently if Buddy was in the game in the final seconds. Even if he didn’t shoot the ball, he would’ve made a great decoy.
Buddy has really fallen out of Walton’s lineup and it’s quite amazing to see the man loved so much by Sacramento last year, has had such a huge falling out.
Buddy has been about the drama this year and I can understand his lack of minutes late in close games because of his lackluster defense and boneheaded offensive decisions, but at the same time, you have arguably one of the best three point shooters in the game and a guy who can score nine points in under a minute.
Bogdan Bogdanovic has silently gained favor over Buddy from both Walton and Sacramento fans. He has the higher basketball IQ and he keeps his mouth shut. Both Buddy and Bogi are both equally important to Sacramento’s future, I just think Buddy has the higher ceiling, he just needs to mature.
Ever since swapping roles, Buddy has shown that he has matured. He has a better defensive rating as a bench player than Bogi does as a starter and all of Hield’s shooting percentages are way up. On top of that, Buddy is scoring the same amount of points he did as a starter in eight less minutes a game.
The bad news for Hield is that right after he was moved to the bench, the Kings have taken off and gone 13-7 in their last 20. Though, I wouldn’t credit this to Bogi and Buddy swapping roles. It is no time to fix what isn’t broken, and it seems like Buddy will continue coming off the bench for the rest of the season.
Should he be sat out entire fourth quarters? Absolutely not. Walton has shown that he leaves rotations on the floor if they’re working, but at the same time, not playing at all in 12 minutes? It’s ridiculous.
Yes, Buddy still needs to learn to dribble less, improve his defense even more, and overall, just raise his basketball IQ, but he is still a great asset and he should be used accordingly.
After last night’s disrespectful exclusion in a situation that is a main reason the Kings signed Buddy Hield to a large contract, I wouldn’t doubt a trade will be requested in the offseason.
Like it or not, Buddy is a starting NBA player on most teams, let alone the Kings. His move to the bench was warranted, but even after showing vast improvement, it seems like he is seeing the floor less and less, even while outperforming Bogi.
It will be interesting what Hield and his camp do in the offseason, but with a player who has talent and stars in his eyes, being a bench player surely isn’t part of his plan. No disrespect to Bogdanovic, but the Kings need to focus on Buddy and give him another chance, he’s certainly owed it.