When the season started, Kings coaches, fans and NBA analysts were trying to determine if Buddy Hield was ready to be a starter or still better suited as a sixth man. Now, people are wondering how long it will take him to become an All-Star.
Hield is averaging 20.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. Among shooting guards, he ranks second in 3-point goals, fourth in 3-point shooting, fifth in rebounding and 10th in scoring.
“I definitely know what Buddy can do for us,” Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “He can go on a run and get six, seven, eight, 10 points by himself. We know what he can do and he’s out there proving he can be one of the best scorers in the league. A lot of people haven’t given him the respect he deserves, but he can score the ball with the best of them.”
Hield has emerged as one of the brightest young stars for a surprising Kings team that will conclude the calendar year with three games against two of the top teams in the Western Conference. Sacramento (18-15) will visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, fly home to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday at Golden 1 Center, then travel back to Los Angeles to play the Lakers again Sunday.
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The Clippers (19-14) are coming off a 129-127 loss to the Golden State Warriors. They lost six of seven in early December after starting the season 15-6, but they posted quality wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets before losing to the Warriors.
The Lakers (19-14) have won 17 of 26 after starting 2-5. They struggled a bit in recent weeks, though, losing four of six leading up to a Christmas Day showdown with the Warriors, including losses to the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets.
The Lakers and Clippers are teams Hield has struggled against. He was held to 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting in a 101-86 loss to the Lakers on Nov. 10. He had 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting and went 0 for 7 from 3-point range in a 133-121 loss to the Clippers on Nov. 29, his only game this season without a 3-pointer.
Despite the sub-par performances, both teams will be well aware of Hield’s ability to score and his recent hot streak. Over the past six games, he has averaged 28.2 points and launched 70 3-point attempts, shooting 45.7 percent from beyond the arc.
“Buddy Hield continues to amaze,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said.
Hield keyed huge second-half runs to help the Kings overcome 19-point deficits in back-to-back victories over the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans. The Kings are the first team since the Indiana Pacers in 2010 to win consecutive games after trailing by 19 in each.
Hield scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half against New Orleans, including a big 3-pointer to tie the score in the fourth quarter and the go-ahead basket moments later. He had eight points in a span of 2:27 to spark a 14-0 run against the team that drafted him in 2016 before he came to Sacramento in the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.
Many observers around the league are just beginning to discover how good Hield can be, but it has come as no surprise to his teammates in Sacramento.
“I know he can score the mess out of the ball, and I think he’s showing that each and every time we go out there,” Kings small forward Justin Jackson said. “We rely on him to score the ball and he’s doing that each and every game. Whatever praise people want to give him, he deserves it.”