The New Orleans Pelicans drafted Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield with the No. 6 overall pick in last night’s NBA Draft, and the selection of Hield, a sharpshooting two-man who hails from the Bahamas, will prove to pay huge dividends for a team in dire need of help in almost every capacity.
Hield is a rare entity. He played all four years at Oklahoma, increasing his statistics incrementally every season until he became the scoring darling of the college basketball universe with a beyond stellar senior campaign.
In his last year as a Sooner, Hield averaged 25 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2 assists per game on 50% shooting from the field and 45% from behind the arc. In addition to those beefy numbers, Hield led his team to the Final Four, and even though they were trounced by the eventual National Champion Villanova Wildcats, Hield had beguiled the entire nation with his scoring prowess and the unique Bahamian accent that coats his dialect.
In the Elite Eight against Oregon, Hield dizzied the Ducks with a dazzling offensive display, dropping 37 points and 8 threes to clinch that previously mentioned Final Four berth.
Then there’s the anecdote that Hield buried 85 out of 100 threes in a pre-draft workout for the Boston Celtics earlier this month, which sounds like a tale that would eek out of Golden State’s quarters when Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry were letting long-balls fly before or after practice.
So what does this mean for the injury-ravished Pelicans? Well, a few things actually.
It makes Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, two of the Pelicans’ most esteemed marksmen over the past few seasons, expendable in free agency, Gordon especially.
In the summer of 2012, the oft-injured and then restricted free agent Gordon, signed a four-year $58 million max deal with the Phoenix Suns, asserting that he felt as if it was the “right franchise” for him. The Pelicans, who relinquished Chris Paul to the Clippers to acquire Gordon, matched the Suns’ offer and retained Gordon, and it seemed as if he was clenched in captivity.
Gordon never played more than 64 games in each of his five seasons with the Pelicans, and he missed a staggering 115 contests in his first three years. Hield is a much cheaper and presumably healthier option than Gordon, and he’s at the tender basketball age of 22, which coincides nicely with the trajectory of this Pelicans team.
New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis is 23, and their starting point guard Jrue Holiday is 26, which plants Hield squarely in the correct age vicinity. He’s not a youngster that will be subject to a mammoth learning curve, and he’s not some old-timer looking to still prove his worth in the Association.
And with the way this Pelicans roster is tailored, he’s sculpted just right for it.
Hield won’t have to juggle many duties, as Davis is seemingly a hekatonkhei (Greek for hundred-handed man), so the transition on the offensive end should be seamless. All Alvin Gentry and the Pelicans will ask him to do is duplicate what he did in college, which is shoot the ball at a high percentage.
Gentry’s offense, which is predicated upon pace-and-space just as almost every NBA attack is nowadays, will enable Hield to duplicate that success, which is why this is should be such a happy marriage.
He won’t be beckoned upon to manufacture offense on a consistent basis, if at all, and there will be a major contemplation factor for defenses in regards to doubling Davis when Hield and his shooting prowess is lurking on the wing.
According to NBA.com/stats, the Pelicans were the 4th worst spot-up shooting team in the league in terms of points per possession, only generating 0.93 PPP in spot-up scenarios. If measuring their spot-up shooting efficacy by field goal percentage, the Pelicans were middle of the pack at 38.1%
New Orleans didn’t fare much better in the catch-and-shoot, as they were 7th worst in generating points out of the C&S at 23.3 per night. The Pelicans did however shoot a respectable 36.4% from behind the arc in C&S situations, but only four teams shot an equal or lower percentage and made the playoffs: the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics.
If Anderson and Gordon aren’t kept, the Pelicans’ best shooters (in terms of metrics), would be James Ennis (48% on 50 attempts in 9 games), Tim Frazier (42% on 31 attempts in 16 games), Luke Babbit (40% on 109 attempts in 47 games) and Toney Douglas (39% on 203 attempts in 61 games).
With the exception of Douglas, those are pretty minuscule sample sizes from those guys, and none of those names will necessarily elicit fear out of opposing defenses looking to prevent Davis from causing mayhem.
Hield may not be pegged a starter right away, but with the Pelicans’ lack of range shooting and their ugly injury history, he could very well be in the first five by the All-Star break or maybe even before. Regardless of his standing in the rotation, Buddy Hield will provide New Orleans with something they are in desperate need of as they eye the postseason for a 2nd time in three years.