The Sacramento Kings’ Buddy Hield has a very particular set of skills. Skills he’s acquired over a lifetime of shooting. Skills that make him a nightmare for opposing defenses. He will look for it, he will find it, and he will drain it. He’s a catch-and-shoot sniper.
For a guy who was quickly glossed over after being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, one can now easily make the argument he deserved to go in the top 10. It’s a huge endorsement of the relentless determination and hard work he’s put in throughout his short time in the league that he’s been able to turn himself into one of the best off-ball shooters.
The former Oklahoma Sooner is knocking down a career-high 43 percent of his outside shots this season. Whether it’s truly recognized or not, this developing weapon has allowed him to become one of the premier players off the bench. When he’s riding the pine, the terrible Sacramento Kings have a net rating of –12.5 compared to -4.5 when Hield is on the floor. This is a big change for a franchise that struggles mightily just to compete on a nightly basis.
The 49.8 percent of his points he accrues from beyond the arc is similar to that of known sharpshooters JJ Redick (48.2 percent) and Eric Gordon (49.1 percent). The biggest factor to Hield’s success has been his ability to shoot off the catch:
This play begins with a fake handoff at the top of the screen and Hield circling to the weakside on the baseline. After the fake is performed, Randolph is on the elbow preparing to set a screen on what originally looks to be Bogdan Bogdanovic’s man. However, Bogdanovic fakes as if he’s coming off the screen and proceeds to come back to team with Randolph in setting a double-stagger screen for Hield coming around the perimeter. This action completely catches Hield’s man by surprise, allowing him to drain a shot from the top of the key.
Amazingly, Hield is knocking down 52.4 percent of these opportunities from downtown and has an overall effective field goal percentage of 74.7 percent when launching off the catch. This ability to splash a shot, even with a hand in his face, has become extremely valuable in today’s league which gives Hield a skill he can rely on.
The good news is, it’s not only the catch-and-shoot looks he’s good at. He’s also very accurate on spot-ups (59.6 effective field goal percentage) and on off-ball screens (60.2 percent effective field goal percentage):
After the ball screen is set for Garrett Temple, he zooms toward the hoop and forces the defense to collapse on him. Kosta Koufos is on the weakside low block, which means Hield’s man must sink down to prevent an easy lob over the top as Koufos’ man is stopping Temple from getting a layup. The point guard does a great job of recognizing this and shoots a pass to Hield who’s patiently waiting near the corner. After catching the slightly off-target pass, Hield bends at the knees and calmly rises to drain the three-ball.
Here’s another great example where he prepares for the ball before it gets there by getting his hands up and his body low and sliding toward the corner. Once he receives the pass, he’s able to immediately go right into his shooting motion for three points:
Unfortunately, he doesn’t take nearly as many attempts as he should after catching the ball, averaging only 3.4 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, 2.7 of the spot-up variety and 1.2 off screens according to NBA.com. Of course, there is overlap between these categories, which makes his low numbers even worse considering he takes 4.9 pull-ups per game. This wouldn’t be an issue except he’s awful at shooting off the dribble, connecting on only 34.3 percent of his shots and 28.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
Whenever he goes to the dribble, his shooting mechanics have a habit of going to shit:
After Hield catches the swing pass, he immediately puts the ball on the floor, catching his man off guard and gets all the way into the lane. But that’s where the good ends and the bad begins. As he raises and fades away to create separation from the defender, he awkwardly throws the ball in the general area of the rim, clanking it off the back of the iron, and losing all resemblance of his smooth follow through on his shot off the catch.
Here’s another look where his follow through looks absolutely disgusting:
Again, he’s going to his left, but this time it’s off a ball-screen from Koufos. As soon as he gets inside the arc, he performs a snake dribble and crosses over to his right hand before abruptly pulling-up just before the free throw line. At first glance, it looks as if the defender may have gotten a piece of the ball or even his hand. Unfortunately, it’s another case of Hield trying to aim the ball at the rim instead of trusting his mechanics and allowing the ball to flow into the hoop.
As of right now, shooting off the dribble is asking Hield to do too much. He needs to slow down and allow the game to come to him by working off his teammates. When he’s able to focus on simple tasks such as shooting off the catch, he’s much more effective.
The Kings would be smart to watch early film on how JJ Redick survived in the NBA. When he first came out of Duke, he was mostly an off-screen specialist who thrived by making constant, intentional movements around the court to create chaos for the defense. This never-ending flow allowed him to use his teammates in strategic ways that would spring him open for catch-and-shoot opportunities and there’s no reason Hield can’t be the same type of player.
In life, there’s a main principle I allow myself to be guided by; if something doesn’t work, do less of it. If something does work, do more of it.
In order for Hield to take the next step in becoming a downtown hero, he must also play to his strengths. This means less dribbling and more chucking. Less control and more chaos. Less thinking and more freestyling. It’s the only way.