After averaging nearly 21 points nightly in 2018-19, Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield came into this season with high expectations.
And though his numbers didn’t take too much of a dip (he put up 19.2 points and 4.6 rebounds this year while shooting 39.4 percent from three), there’s no question Hield had a disappointing 2019-20, capped with him being removed from the starting lineup by head coach Luke Walton and moved into a bench role for the final 28 games of the season.
Naturally, this has led to trade rumors regarding Hield’s future in Sacramento.
The Athletic’s Sam Amick recently joined our own Michael Scotto for an episode of the HoopsHype podcast and discussed the situation:
Amick: “You’ve got the Buddy Hield situation. He does not see himself as a sixth man. He’s not happy as a sixth man. That problem is not going away, and you gave him starter money. Do you test the market on Buddy? Can you get anything back?”
Hield is under contract for four more seasons making an average of $23.5 million annually in that span, making finding a trade suitor for him a bit tricky, though far from impossible.
Below, we break down four potential landing spots for Hield if a trade does come to fruition.
Hield made waves this week after liking and commenting on an Instagram post linking him to the Philadephia 76ers.
Buddy wants to be a Sixer. Make it happen Elton pic.twitter.com/UGMq9W3Jc0
— Will🦅 (@simmons_szn) September 23, 2020
From purely a basketball perspective, the fit makes sound sense.
Built around two stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid who struggle with outside shooting, Hield would instantly become the team’s best high-volume three-point marksmen and potentially give the team’s offense a big-time boost.
Ranked in the 93rd percentile as a spot-up shooter this season, per Synergy Sports, Hield’s shooting prowess would open up a lot of doors for Simmons and Embiid to attack the basket, and his underrated ability to run the pick-and-roll (63rd percentile) could add a new dimension to the Sixers offense.
A deal with the framework of Hield and Jabari Parker (who is likely to opt into the final year of his deal which will pay him $6.5 million next year) for Al Horford (who has three years and $81 million left on his deal) and Josh Richardson (two years and $22.5 million left on his contract) would work financially, but would still require for Philadelphia to add draft capital (like their 2022 unprotected first-round pick) for Sacramento to be interested since Horford’s deal is looking like a major negative asset at this point.
Even so, with the promising Marvin Bagley playing the 4, Horford could slot in at the center position where he’s more comfortable these days and be not just a solid frontcourt complement for the young Duke product, but a good mentor for him as well. Plus, Richardson is the dynamic wing defender the Kings are missing and is on one of the most team-friendly deals for a starter-level talent in the league today.
New York Knicks
One of the New York Knicks’ biggest problems last season was their complete lack of shooting, especially after trading Marcus Morris to the Los Angeles Clippers.
New York’s three best three-point shooters in 2019-20, Damyean Dotson, Allonzo Trier and Bobby Portis, shot 36.2 percent and 35.8 percent apiece from deep respectively, and as a team, they knocked down merely 33.7 percent of their outside looks, the fourth-worst mark in the league.
Needless to say, the Knicks desperately need to improve on those marks, particularly if they want to open up driving lanes for their two best young pieces, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle.
Acquiring a talented shooter like Hield could be one way to do that.
As far as what a potential deal might look like, it’s less complicated getting Hield to the Knicks because New York projects to have enough cap space to fit the talented shooter onto their payroll without needing to match money. They just need to put the right package together to entice the Kings.
Among the likeliest candidates the Knicks might dangle in a theoretical trade are: Kevin Knox (slow start to his career but the former Top 10 pick is still just 21), Frank Ntilikina (shown to be a plus defender but has remained extremely inefficient on offense through three seasons), their No. 27 pick this year and the two extra first-round picks they have (2021 and Top 10 protected in 2023) courtesy of the Kristaps Porzingis deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
Where it gets dicier is if Sacramento starts asking for a Mitchell Robinson or an RJ Barrett (by far New York’s two best young prospects) or their No. 8 pick in this upcoming draft.
Regardless, there are enough options there for a deal to get done if the Knicks really do covet Hield and his 20 points per game.
Had it not been for their subpar outside shooting marks all year long but especially in the bubble, there’s a good chance the Memphis Grizzlies would have qualified for the playoffs.
Ultimately, however, their 31.7 percent three-point shooting mark over their final eight regular-season games were too much for Ja Morant and Co. to overcome, and they went 2-6 to close the campaign, costing them the No. 8 seed.
As such, it’s clear Memphis could use an upgrade in the outside shooting department, making a player like Hield an ideal trade candidate for them. Flanked by Morant and Jaren Jackson, Hield could be an excellent complement for the two young stars, spacing the floor for them and helping take over some of the scoring load.
The question here as far as the fit goes is how much of an upgrade do the Grizzlies view Hield as over the incumbent at his position Dillon Brooks, who was a major reason why Memphis was even close to making the playoffs this season.
Brooks is three years younger, a more intense defender than Hield, probably a better locker-room guy and making just $35 million over the next three seasons compared to Hield’s $94 million over the next four years.
However, when looking at the advanced-metric breakdown between two wings, it’s clear who the more impactful player is right now (and that’s with Hield having a bit of a down season):
If Memphis does think Hield is the better option going forward, they can offer Sacramento a package featuring Brooks, Gorgui Dieng’s expiring contract and a future protected first-round pick to get a deal done.
That’d give the Kings some much-coveted draft capital for the future and a very solid and young 2-guard in Brooks who could either backup Bogdan Bogdanovic or replace him if he departs in free agency this fall.
Another mediocre three-point shooting team, the Charlotte Hornets, who are typically not a free-agent destination, would also make sense as a potential Hield suitor.
Charlotte’s dynamic young backcourt of Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier could use a wing who can be a high-level spot-up option off the ball, and who can run some pick-and-roll action on his own. Hield fits that mold wonderfully.
What’s more, for a Hornets offense that ranked bottom three in efficiency this year, finding an upgrade to their point-producing capabilities has to be their priority this offseason, and since Charlotte has historically struggled on the free-agent market, they may need to look at their trade options to do so.
To get a deal done, the Hornets have enough cap space this offseason that they’d only have to offer a minor salary like Malik Monk’s for a trade to be legal. Monk, who has been disappointing through three full campaigns in Charlotte but will be just 23 next season, and a protected first-round pick might be enough to entice the Kings if they do decide to move Hield.
Monk gives Sacramento a cost-controlled young option with some upside as a scorer while Hield would give the Hornets the productive wing they’ve been missing since the Nicolas Batum signing turned out to be a bust.
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Yossi Gozlan and Alberto de Roa contributed to this article.