The New Orleans Pelicans have their star franchise player in Anthony Davis. There is no question that he is an MVP caliber player who can single-handedly carry his team to the postseason when healthy. One thing this Pelicans team has been missing is an elite shooter at one of the wing positions that can help space the floor and give Davis more room to operate. Last night in their second preseason match-up, this one coming against the Indiana Pacers, Buddy Hield has continued to prove why he was worth the sixth overall pick of this year’s draft.
Hield finished the night with a game-high 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 2-0f-5 from three. Even though the final score didn’t favor the Pelicans (113-96), the things that Hield has done throughout the two preseason games have been encouraging.
After his Summer League performance, there were questions of whether or not he would be another college star that just couldn’t translate his skills to the NBA. But on that Summer League team, Hield was the best player, and every team’s defensive schemes were set up to deny him any chances to get going with his jump shot.
With Davis on the floor, opponents will take their attention off of Hield (for now, at least). That means he’ll have plenty of open looks as long as he continues to move well without the ball. He is plenty used to having to move non-stop off the ball dating back to last season in Oklahoma.
Sure, the NBA game is completely different from college, but the best shooters to every play were also elite at utilizing off-ball screen and cuts. Hield has the ability to fit that mold as well.
The former Naismith College Player of the Year is not just a sniper from deep, but Hield is also a well-rounded offensive player. People are quick to forget about his early days at Oklahoma when he shot 23.8 percent from beyond the arc. At that time, he was a slasher who depended on his athleticism to finish strictly around the rim.
In the two games thus far, he has displayed his all-around game, while still being a threat from deep. Hield and Davis have even connected on a few plays that resulted in easy dunks thanks to Hield’s penetration. The two certainly compliment each other’s game and will gel from the get-go.
Here’s a quick glance at Hield numbers throughout the first two preseason games:
Yes, it’s just preseason. But if Hield can sustain these type of numbers, the Pelicans will be better than most predict. The Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas gave the Pelicans an over/under win total of 36.5. The status of Jrue Holiday and when he returns from aiding his wife will have a big impact on whether or not they can exceed that number, but if Hield is playing at this level, Holiday’s absence won’t hurt as much at it should.
The Pelicans lost their best shooter in Ryan Anderson to the Houston Rockets in free agency this summer. Anderson finished with 26 points and hit seven three’s in a win last night against the New York Knicks. Now, Hield will have to be the guy to make up for the production that Anderson brought each night. Not only will he force opposing defenses to stretch, he can make them pay if they close out uncontrollably–something that Anderson couldn’t.
Consistency will be the most important factor to watch with Hield going forward as he and the Pelicans prepare to make their regular season opener on Oct. 26 against the Denver Nuggets.