Written By: Tom Witt
Blog: TomTooWitty Sports Blog
Buddy… Bench Balla’?!
Buddy Hield is one of the major keys to the Sacramento Kings success.
And in some fans minds, to their lack of success at times.
Since 1/24 the Kings have sported a 13-7 record since moving Buddy Hield to the bench, arguably their best stretch of the season.
That shows that Sacramento can win with Hield in the mix… though, it may be important what order Chef Walton mixes him into the recipe.
Change Inevitable in Sac-Town
The Kings started the season injured, and not quite performing up to their pre-season expectations.
A change was needed, and imminent.
On Jan 24th, Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton decided to make a lineup change.
This change would move starter Buddy Hield and bring him off the bench, while starting Bogdan Bogdanovich in his place.
This is a move Kings fans, mainly the ones who are disgruntled with Buddy, have been wanting to have happen for some time now.
Hield’s Reaction to New Bench Role
As with most players, Buddy wasn’t exactly like a kid on Christmas morning when the head coach tells him he is moving from starter to coming off the bench.
Buddy has been vocal about his displeasure in the past with his lack of minutes, especially in crunch time situations.
When asked about how Hield responded to being told about his move to the bench Coach Walton stated,
“Walton weighs in: Buddy, Bogi, Kings growth and a season (somewhat) saved”, 4/28/2020, Sam Amick, The Athletic, https://theathletic.com/1780069/2020/04/28/walton-weighs-in-buddy-bogey-kings-growth-and-a-season-somewhat-saved/?source=dailyemail
“Buddy was not happy about not starting, but he didn’t bitch. He said, ‘You’re the coach. I’m going to do what I need to do.’”
Buddy Bench Balla’
Hield Gets Better with Move to the Bench
If Buddy’s first game off the bench was any indication of things to come, Kings fans are in for something good!
In a win against the Bulls on 1/24, which snapped a six game losing streak, Buddy came off the bench and scored 21 points, including five threes, and hit some big shots late in the game.
Numbers Never Lie…
According to NBA.com advanced stats, during Buddy Hield’s 20 games off the bench he was second on the team in points per game, with 19.4, only behind De’Aaron Fox.
This was all while shooting an inter-stellar 47.9% from three point range, on a whopping 9.3 attempts per game!
Buddy’s 2019-20 Season Stats
In 64 games played, in which Buddy started 44, Hield per game averaged 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, while shooting 42.9% FG, 39.5% from 3PT range and 85.5% from the free throw line. Basketball-Reference Buddy Hield Stats
Buddy Hield 2019-20 Season Highlight Reel!
Great Teams Need Great Bench Players
Most great teams need someone other than their starting five to play like a starter.
Toni Kukoc of the famed Chicago Bulls 90’s era teams, featured on the ESPN docu-series, “The Last Dance”, was a pivotal player in the Bulls second NBA championship 3-peat.
The Spurs championship runs featured future hall of famer, smooth lefty, Manu Ginobili, coming off the bench.
Great Sacramento Kings teams of the past featured players like Bobby Jackson, who won 2003-04 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Even NBA scoring machine James Harden once won the 6th man award for the Oklahoma City Thunder, during the 2011-12 season. The same season that OKC made it to the NBA finals but lost to LeBron and the Miami Heat 4-1.
Players don’t need to start the game to have a huge impact on the outcome.
Coach Walton speaks on the impact Buddy can have coming off the bench,
“Even with Buddy (coming off the bench), he was still playing starter minutes, he was still finishing certain games, and it’s one of those things where if you’re truly bought into being on the team, you end up accepting it because that’s a huuuggee value. I mean, you look at Ginobili with the Spurs, you look at Lamar with our Lakers teams, Steve did it with Andre up in Golden State. So you need starter caliber players kind of playing with that second group a lot of times. And I thought Buddy had really, really done a nice job of embracing that and making our team better.” – Luke Walton, Kings Head Coach“Walton weighs in: Buddy, Bogi, Kings growth and a season (somewhat) saved”, 4/28/2020, Sam Amick, The Athletic, https://theathletic.com/1780069/2020/04/28/walton-weighs-in-buddy-bogey-kings-growth-and-a-season-somewhat-saved/?source=dailyemail
That Dirty ‘C’ Word… CONSISTENCY
Sacramento needs consistent play out of Buddy Hield in order to be successful.
The Buddy Hield that hurts the Kings is the one that turns the ball over, makes bad decisions, and doesn’t consistently play hard on defense.
And those things won’t be fixed by a great 3-point percentage… no matter how great.
For the Kings, and for Buddy, to be successful, Hield needs to be a high percentage, consistent player.
Hield needs to take care of the ball, passing and dribbling. Buddy did a nice job to improve his ball handling skills during the previous off-season.
Buddy needs to consistently make smart decisions, like knowing when to shoot and when to move the ball. While trusting that his teammates will work the ball back to him for an EVEN BETTER shot than the one he passed up earlier in the possession.
This is all while playing more consistent defense, not necessarily 2nd team all league defense, but that “C” word, CONSISTENT defense.
If Buddy can do most of these things I mention above with a bit of consistency, he may not be in the game at the tip-off, but he most likely will be on the floor when the final buzzer sounds, and that’s what competing is all about.
What Will the Future Hold…
At this moment, early May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine, we don’t know when the NBA will come back.
Whenever that may be, I think the Kings have a bright future, especially one involving an efficient, consistent Buddy ‘Bench Balla’ Hield.