On Sunday morning, the University of Oklahoma Sooners will take on the Villanova University Wildcats for a spot in the NCAA national championship game.
If Oklahoma are any chance to advance to the final stage for the first time since 1988, it will largely have to be off the back of their superstar senior – Buddy Hield.
Hield is considered one of the best players in the upcoming NBA Draft. However, the recent hype surrounding the 6-4 guard has him as high as the top pick on some draft boards, while he just scrapes into the top-10 on others.
So why do such contrasting views exist regarding the favourite for the John Wooden award?
Mychal Thompson, former number one draft pick and father of NBA superstar Klay Thompson, has gone as far as comparing the situation to the one that saw MVP Stephen Curry drafted seventh overall in 2009.
Thompson believes that Buddy is suffering from a certain level of bias from NBA scouts. “Just like they didn’t believe in Curry, for some reason they don’t see what Buddy Hield’s doing as translating to the NBA at the highest level”.
Going off league records, as of today the Philadelphia 76ers are in the box seat to be picking first in June when the Draft rolls around.
Right now, Philadelphia are short at just about every position bar power forward and centre. So why would they want to pick Hield?
For those who have not been watching recently, Buddy has been in a Stephen Curry-like zone. Three of his last four points totals are 27, 36 and 37, and in those three matches, his combined shooting percentage is .590 from the field and .514 from three-point.
But this is not a “lately” thing. Buddy Hield’s averages on the year are 25.5 points per game, 6 rebounds pg, .504 from the field and .465 from three. In today’s NBA, Hield is worth his weight in gold.
His quick release and shot-making ability from seemingly anywhere on the court has some comparing his game-changing ability in the NCAA to that of the aforementioned Stephen Curry in the NBA.
His work ethic is often raved about also, with some claiming he gets off 500-700 shots outside practice time in the gyms at the Lloyd Noble Centre.
Whilst his handle has not lit the world on fire, and he has become less of a slasher and more of a shooter, he is still capable of making shots at the rim, improving from around 50% last year to 65% this year.
So the way that the game is slowing moving form the inside to the outside, why wouldn’t you grab Hield off the Draft board this year if you were a high picking team?
Realistically, there’s not a whole lot wrong with Buddy’s game – and that’s the point. As a senior, at age 23, many feel like his game has improved to its’ peak – a bit of a stretch, but perhaps a valid point nonetheless.
Only one player selected in this year’s NBA All-Star Game stayed at college all four years as Buddy Hield did, which shows that most current NBA stars have established themselves as NBA-ready long before Hield has.
Some of the notable names likely to be drafted above Buddy, such as Brandon Ingram and Australia’s Ben Simmons, are 18 and 19, which shows a lot of room from improvement before they hit their prime.
However, technicalities aside, he does have plenty of work to do on the defensive side of the court.
He’s not a fantastic defender on or off the ball, and relative to his future peers, is not that athletic either, meaning the improvement on d will have to come from within.
However, this is all paper talk. NBA scouts, draft analysts and journalists such as myself can chop these things up any number of ways in order to find truth, but the real truth of the matter is, it’s all up to Buddy Hield and the team the drafts him.
Hield’s unique skill set is more than serviceable in today’s league, and he’s shown that he is capable of taking over games. Whether he can do so in the NBA also will all be decided after the Draft.
Will Buddy Hield be the new Kobe Bryant or the next Jimmer Fredette? Have your say below.