Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
Buddy Hield captivated the college basketball nation with a spectacular senior season the culminated in the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Hield improved in virtually every facet of the game between his junior and seniors seasons, going from a fringe NBA Draft pick to a likely lottery pick in the process.
At 28 points per-40, with a 67% TS%, only Doug McDermott can boast having as prolific and efficient season as Hield has in the last 20 years of college basketball.
Hield's perimeter shooting is as good of a place as any to start the conversation about his offensive game. His 147 3-pointers made (in 37 games) was by far the highest mark among all college players this year, and is tied for the highest total mark any college basketball player has achieved since Steph Curry made 162 back in 2008.
What's impressive about Hield's 3-point shooting isn't just the huge volume of makes this season, it's also the incredible accuracy, at 46%.
He's deadly in transition, is always moving to relocate into a better look after giving it up, and has a super quick trigger that allows him to get his shot off in the blink of an eye. Hield knocks down shots from NBA range on a regular basis, often with a hand in his face while well-guarded by defenses that are geared to slowing him down.
Hield has always been a tremendous shooter (career 39% 3P%), but he was much more of a catch and shoot guy for the first few years of his college career. Although he's absolutely elite with his feet set still (68/139, 49%), he's also turned himself into a much improved off the dribble shooter as well (51/137, 37%), which makes him very difficult to stop considering many of these attempts come from beyond the 3-point line (0.98 PPP).
Although he doesn't have great size, or the highest release point (he's largely a flat-footed shooter), he utilizes impressive footwork, hesitation moves and fadeaways to help him get his shot off in difficult situations, especially in big moments with the shot-clock running down.
His ball-handling skills in general improved as his college career moved on, as evidenced by his career high 55% 2P% this past season. He's able to attack his defender off closeouts with nice footwork and timing, and will mix in some change of speeds, spin moves and side-steps out of pick and rolls and isolations. He drives left almost exclusively, but has started to show some ability to use it to finish inside the paint as well, where he shot 56% this season.
There are some question marks about what type of creator he will be at an NBA level, though, as he at times struggles to turn the corner already against quicker collegiate guards, and can't always create much breathing room against bigger and lengthy wings.
He can be a little bit predictable when putting the ball on the floor, as he almost always pulls up off the dribble or tries to execute a step back when driving left, and will try to get all the way to the rim when going right (which is rare). Not blessed with an elite first step, he can still stand to continue to improve his advanced ball-handling skills to create space in the half-court. In traffic, as he doesn't always have the size or explosiveness to finish effectively against rim-protectors, and thus relies very heavily on his shot-making prowess from the perimeter.
Hield also doesn't offer much as a passer or facilitator, sporting the second lowest pure point rating and assist to turnover ratio among the shooting guards in our Top-100 prospect rankings. He'll pull off the occasionally drive and dish play, but for the most part he's looking for his own offense whenever he's on the floor, and does not possess an exceptionally high basketball IQ.
The other pressing question surrounding Hield is his defense. While that was considered a clear weakness in the past, he's improved his effort level and fundamentals, and eliminated enough of the bad habits he had in this area that it's not as big a weakness as it may have been in the past. Still, he is undoubtedly undersized for a shooting guard at 6'4 ½ in shoes, which limits his versatility at the NBA level. While he played mostly the small forward position in college, his lack of size will make it difficult for him to cover many of the bigger wings he'll encounter, and he does not appear to possess great lateral quickness to stay in front of ultra-athletic guards. With that said, he has a reasonably strong frame, to go along with a long wingspan (measured at 6'8 ½) for a shooting guard, so even if he's strictly a one-position defender, there's no reason he can't at least be adequate there as he figures out that he absolutely has to in order to survive.
With that in mind, Hield's overall intangibles make him the type of player who is difficult to write off, and to some degree, root for. He's one of the best rags to riches stories you'll find in the past few years, and is universally lauded for his work ethic, competitiveness and character. It's tough to envision a player who was as productive as he was at the college level not translating his effectiveness to the NBA, at least in some capacity. In that regard, there is a certain comfort level knowing what you're getting, which is, at worst, a tremendous shooter/scorer who plays extremely hard and will do everything in his power to be successful.
This article was originally published on the Vertical on March 29th. Find it here in it's original format.
NBA teams have watched the best NCAA players and NBA prospects see their college careers end in disappointing fashion in the NCAA tournament.
Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine of Michigan State lost in the first round, scoring 13 points on 13 shots in a shocking loss to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State.
Utah's Jakob Poeltl, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, had a season-low five points on five shots in a disappointing blowout loss to Gonzaga in the second round.
ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon scored 12 points on 14 shots and came up completely flat in the second half as Virginia was the victim of a stunning comeback by Syracuse in the Elite Eight.
Kentucky's Jamal Murray, a projected top-10 pick, needed 18 shots to get 16 points in a second-round loss to Indiana.
Possible top-five pick Jaylen Brown of Cal fouled out in just 17 minutes after scoring four points on six field-goal attempts in a first-round loss to Hawaii.
Yet Buddy Hield is still standing after averaging 29 points per game while making 19 of 40 3-point attempts and leading Oklahoma to the Final Four, where it will face Villanova on Saturday.
Most observers think Hield's NCAA tournament performance is dramatically boosting his draft stock, but that may not be the case.
It's nothing we didn't know or haven't seen already, but it's good to see him doing this on the biggest stage he's played on in his college career so far, an NBA general manager told The Vertical.
Hield's evolution from a raw and wild freshman who averaged 7.8 points per game and shot 24 percent from 3-point range to the best player in college basketball is an incredible story of work ethic, character and determination. He was hoping to enter last year's draft, but was deterred by the feedback he received from NBA teams, which indicated he was, at best, a mid-second-round pick. Now he is expected to be drafted in the lottery in June and may have solidified his standing in the 5-10 range.
But it's important not to go overboard with his NCAA tournament play. As we've seen in the past, strong tournament performances don't always translate into great NBA careers. After all, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Napier, Luke Hancock, Kyle Singler and Wayne Ellington are five of the last seven players to be named Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
The difference between those five and the other two winners of the award Anthony Davis and Kemba Walker is that like Hield, Davis and Walker had already cemented themselves as lottery picks before the tournament.
Hield's NBA role
Today's NBA leans toward bigger wings who can defend multiple positions, create for themselves and others, and stretch the floor beyond the 3-point line. Hield can do the most important of those three things shoot but falls short in the other two areas. At 6-foot-4½ in shoes, he'll likely defend mostly shooting guards, and his passing metrics rate as the third-worst (ahead of only Brown and Indiana's Troy Williams) among the 45 college guards or wings in the DraftExpress Top-100 rankings.
Still, that shouldn't prevent him from having a long and productive NBA career because almost every team in the league could use someone in his mold. In what appears to be a fairly weak draft, there's a comfort level in knowing exactly what you're getting with Hield.
Few college players in recent memory have been as prolific (28 points per 40 minutes) and efficient (67 percent true shooting percentage) as Hield. The closest we've seen among NBA draft picks is Doug McDermott (32 points per 40; 65 percent true shooting at Creighton), and his NBA career is off to a solid start. Among guards, there are few who have come close to matching what Hield has done, although Steph Curry (32 points per 40, 64 percent true shooting as a sophomore at Davidson; 34 points per 40, 61 percent true shooting as a junior) and Kyrie Irving (25 points per 40, 71 percent true shooting as a freshman in only 11 games at Duke) both did impressive things at a much younger age.
Here's a look at some comparable college seasons produced by guards selected in the draft since 1983:
Hield's NCAA tournament run should be celebrated and enjoyed by basketball fans. His matchup on Saturday night against Villanova is a must-watch game for most who follow sports, but don't be surprised that NBA general managers are just as likely to be roaming around gyms in Serbia or France while it's happening.
Mike Schmitz analyzes how Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield has improved as a shot creator in the half court, specifically tracking the progression of his ball-handling, off the dribble shooting and finishing ability inside the arc.
Schmitz goes year by year in analyzing Hield's progession from his freshman to senior seasons, both in terms of his scoring proficiency, but also with his ability to get to the free throw line and put the ball in the net efficiently.
Hield has dramatically improved as an off the dribble shooter, both with his ability to create space for himself with advanced ball-handling moves, but also with his consistency making pull-up jumpers.
His range now extends to the NBA arc, he looks highly comfortable in isolation situations, and he's much improved in pick and roll situations, particularly with his ability to use change of speeds and directions.
Included is analysis from Buddy himself talking about the steps he's taken to improve as a shot-creator the way he has.
Hield settled for too many floaters his first few years in college and was mostly unsuccessful doing so. He's now getting all the way to the rim, taking contact at the basket and finishing with his off hand.
Oklahoma shooting guard Buddy Hield is arguably the best scorer in college basketball, averaging 31 points (50% 2P%, 50% 3P%) per-40 minutes, while posting a stellar 32.6 PER (12th best in NCAA).
But with the three worst games of his season coming against the three best teams on Oklahoma's schedule (up until last night), it was difficult to gauge just how to take that, especially considering Hield's struggles against elite competition historically (18.7 career PER vs Teams over .500, 24.7 vs sub-500).
Last night Oklahoma played against fellow top ranked team Kansas on the road, a rare #1 vs #2 matchup, which prompted numerous NBA teams to send representatives to Lawrence to scout the game. The game ended up being a classic, a triple-overtime affair, with Hield scoring 46 points on 23 shots in 54 minutes (to go along with 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 turnovers). While it would be foolish to draw too many long term conclusions off this contest alone, this is a very interesting matchup to analyze nonetheless.
Via Mike Schmitz, here's a six minute video breakdown of some of the more notable things NBA scouts were able to see last night, both good and bad, on either end of the floor.
Also check out our detailed scouting video breaking down his strengths and weaknesses as an NBA prospect in depth.
Few players in college basketball have more fun playing basketball than Oklahoma's Buddy Hield. The soon-to-be senior guard and Bahamas native is the consummate glue guy, constantly competing, talking and smiling in the heat of the battle all important qualities for a player who (at best) projects as a rotation player. Hield isn't exactly great in one area, and he doesn't quite have the physical tools to make up for his lack of an elite NBA skill, but he competes, plays the right way, and actually has more ability with the ball than he has shown at Oklahoma.
Hield played a lot of point guard in games and competition, handling comfortably in ball screens and changing speeds and directions effectively. He's a very capable passer on the move and even knocked down a couple of step back jumpers, one right in DeMarcus Cousins' face.
Hield also showed an ability to defend both guard spots with his strength, length and energy. As is the case with a lot of his skills, Hield isn't quite elite at guarding either position, at least from an NBA standpoint. Hield also struggled to make shots consistently from the perimeter, spraying the ball left and right in both spot up and off the dribble situations. When Hield shoots it on balance with a compact release, he's very effective, but he tends to lean too much on his shot and eventually shoot a bit of a push shot, ultimately leading to less than desirable results.
As was the case last year at Oklahoma, Hield did do a lot of damage handling and filling the lanes in transition, but he'll really have to become a knockdown shooter to be a consistent threat in the half court. His improved handle and playmaking ability is certainly a plus, but he doesn't quite have the burst or offensive creativity to consistently be called upon to create offense in the half court, making his jump shot that much more important.
Despite some of his shortcomings, there's no doubting Hield's likability and intangibles, which, along with his current skill set, give him a great chance of at least making an NBA roster and sticking if he's able to carve out a niche.
After an unassuming freshman season, Buddy Hield broke out in a major way as a sophomore, winning All-Conference Second Team honors after more than doubling his per-game scoring production from 7.8 to 16.5 points, good for 10th in the Big 12 conference and 4th best among returning players.
Hield is slightly undersized for a NBA shooting guard at 6-4 1/2 in shoes (measured at the Nike Skills Academy this summer) but has a solid 6-8 1/2 wingspan and 214 pound frame to help compensate for that. He's an above average athlete as well, being quick, strong and mobile, although not incredibly explosive.
The Freeport, Bahamas native is at his best in the open court, where his strong frame and solid athleticism make him relatively effective at the college level. He's a smart player who knows his strengths and weaknesses and makes the right play more often than not, whether it's leaking out to the wing in transition for open 3-pointers or giving up the ball unselfishly to the open man.
Hield significantly improved his 3-point shooting as a sophomore, which accounted for a big portion of the improvement he made as an overall scorer last season. 3-pointers accounted for 53% of his overall field goal attempts as a sophomore, up from 38% as a freshman. More importantly, he made 39% of those 3s, up from 24%.
At this point in his development, Hield is strictly a catch and shoot player, making 41% of his attempts on a large volume (4.5 per game). When forced to operate outside his comfort zone with his feet set, Hield's effectiveness as a shooter falls off dramatically, as he only made 6 of the 33 jumpers he attempted last season shooting off the dribble. To his credit, Hield seems to realize this and doesn't try to force the issue with ill-advised pull-up jumpers too often.
As a shot-creator in general, Hield is very much a work in progress in the half-court at this stage. Rarely will you see him creating his own shot from the perimeter and getting to the rim against a set defense, as his ball-handling skills are rudimentary at best, his left hand is weak on both drives and finishes, and he doesn't really know how to utilize change of speeds or hesitation moves to get defenders off-balance. He doesn't show much confidence at all in his slashing ability, as most of his pick and roll and isolation possessions last season resulted in either a jump-shot or a very simple pass to a teammate on the perimeter. Hield only got to the free throw line 2.9 times per-40 minutes pace-adjusted last season, which is the third lowest rate among all 26 returning collegiate guards in our top-100 prospect rankings.
Defensively, Hield has the tools to be very effective on this end of the floor when he's fully dialed in, as he has good strength, a solid wingspan, nice lateral quickness and is not afraid to be physical and put a body on opponents. He's not very consistent with this part of his game at this stage, though, as his fundamentals are just average. He's prone to closing out wildly on the perimeter, falling asleep in his stance, and losing focus off the ball. Hield will come up with some very impressive possessions from time to time, but needs to do a better job of staying engaged at all times, something scouts will likely be watching closely as it's a major key to his evolution as a NBA prospect.
There is no shortage of 6-4 shooting guards who are simply one-dimensional catch and shoot players, so it will be interesting to see how Hield improves his versatility as a junior after a breakout sophomore season. Hield is in an ideal situation to showcase himself playing a featured role under a very well respected coach in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, so he'll have plenty of opportunity to improve his standing over the next year or two.