Last season Buddy Hield had one of the most prolific three-point shooting performances of all-time. He was essentially a third Splash Brother, one who lived 90 minutes down the road from his siblings. He ended up with the seventh highest single-season total on three-pointers made ever. Only one player ever, Stephen Curry, had ever hit more three-pointers in a single season while shooting better than 40 percent from long-range. (Curry has the top four spots on this list.)
This would not appear to be a fluke: Hield hit 43 percent on three-pointers the year before while finishing 20th in the league in attempts and he hit 39 percent from deep as a rookie. Of course, Hield came to fame at Oklahoma by shooting and making lots of three-pointers.
The evidence suggests that Hield is one of the best shooters in the entire NBA.
The evidence also suggests Hield is a good fit with his team’s best and most promising player, De’Aaron Fox, the lightning bolt point guard responsible for bestowing the Kings with their speed demon identity last season and a potential star in the making. Having a prolific deep shooter to run with the chaos-creating Fox is a beautiful fit, and it showed in the Kings’ powerful transition offense last season. The halfcourt offense anchored by Fox and Hield leaves much to be desired — decision-making, off-ball movement, and the lack of a second player to break down opponents off the dribble are contributing factors. But there’s a lot of promise in the pairing.
There is also Hield’s contract situation.
Hield is entering his fourth season in the NBA, which means that he will be a restricted free agent next summer unless he and the Kings work out an early extension this month. Murmurs have spread that Hield is expecting a maximum value extension or something close. The 2020 free agent pool is lackluster, and one would expect that Hield would be able to draw a maximum value offer sheet if he has another season like the last. The Kings would have the opportunity to match that offer sheet if it came to pass. The smart move, barring all other considerations, would be to let Hield play out the season and either offer him a maximum value deal if it’s obvious he’ll get one, or make him go get one and match it. This is using restricted free agency rules and team power to your benefit.
But you can’t bar all other considerations in these situations. Certainly, Hield’s camp is not going to let the Kings bar all other considerations.
Hield expressed some frustration with the team’s inability to reach terms on an extension in comments to the Sacramento Bee on Thursday. There are no specifics on the dollars sought, but it’s clear Hield is not interested in playing out his contract and signing a new deal next summer. There were some vague threats about ending up elsewhere if a deal wasn’t reached, though nothing explicit about pending trade requests or the like.
Of course, the team can force Hield to wait for his payday by not offering an extension or offering only extensions that would be in their future interest. Hield can’t really do anything about that ... except be mad.
Can the Kings, finally rising from the ashes of their own creation, afford to make Hield mad heading into a promising season? How will that impact Fox, or Marvin Bagley III, or Bogdan Bogdanovic (also a free agent next summer)? How will it impact the ability of new coach Luke Walton to get everyone on board with his program? How will it impact Hield’s performance?
Will it kill the Kings’ good vibes?
Those are the factors the Kings have to consider as contract negotiations wind down and the deadline arrives. On paper, it makes sense to wait. It always makes sense to wait, unless you get a discount or it solves a tricky cap hold situation down the road. The smart teams usually wait.
But given Hield’s willingness to go public with his frustration in the preseason, and given the Kings’ utter lack of success for the past 13 (!) years, can the Kings afford to wait?
It’s a tough decision, and one Sacramento needs to make quickly. There’s probably no easy answer here. But running a basketball teams is difficult. Success and failure are in this league are largely decided by luck and a thousands decisions that could go either way. These decisions usually don’t go the Kings’ way. Neither does luck.
The best bet here just might be to keep the rare good vibes rolling and lock in Hield now, and just hope those sweet jumpers keep falling. The alternative is messy and dark.