Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield turned down the NBA after his junior season to return to the Sooners, but after a senior season that included a run to the Final Four, being named the consensus national player of the year and seeing a jump in just about every facet of his game, the NBA won’t turn down Hield.
Hield has gone from potential late second-round pick to almost guaranteed top-10 selection in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, which begins at 7 p.m.
As a senior, Hield scored 25 points per game and shot 45.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc. He shot 50 percent from the field after never shooting better than 45 percent in any previous year. Hield also saw a jump in rebounds, assists and blocks.
Sooners Illustrated takes a look at where he might end up on draft night.
No. 2 overall pick – Los Angeles Lakers
Why it fits: The Lakers love Kobe, and Kobe loves Buddy. Hield worked out with the Lakers this past weekend, and it’s a tempting pick to put the best shooter in the draft class at the No. 2 spot.
Why it doesn’t: It’s way too early for Hield when it all comes down to it.
No. 3 overall pick – Boston Celtics
Why it fits: With a pretty loaded young team, the Celtics have the luxury of taking any piece that they want. Hield would be an immediate impact on a team that has the potential to challenge the Cavaliers in a couple years – two at the most. He had an incredible work-out with the Celtics, knocking down better than 80 percent of 3-pointers in his reported work-out.
Why it doesn’t: The Celtics have a lot of choices at the No. 3 pick. Hield is an option. Kentucky’s Jamal Murray is a serious contender as well. They could even go with Kris Dunn out of Providence. But Boston already has a ton of guards on its roster, and they might roll the dice on a player with higher potential. Then, there’s Dragan Bender.
No. 4 overall pick – Phoenix Suns
Why it fits: The Suns need help in the backcourt and already have youth and potential at point guard. This would rule out Dunn in place of Hield, which is really the major debate at the No. 4 overall pick. Hield can score a little better than Dunn, who is considered to be the best point guard in the draft. If the Suns move Eric Bledsoe that could really change what they do with this pick.
Why it doesn’t: It seems as though the Suns might be looking towards the frontcourt this early in the draft. If Bender – a 7-foot-1 forward – gets past the Celtics, there’s almost no way the Suns pass on him – or someone trades up to get him.
No. 5 overall pick – Minnesota Timberwolves
Why it fits: The Timberwolves have just about every piece in place to become a serious contender in the Western Conference. They are really just missing a shooter. CBS Sports has Hield projected to the Timberwolves, and he’s a player that would be able to help immediately – likely slotting in as the T’Wolves No. 2 guard immediately.
Why it doesn’t: Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau has always preached defense, and that hasn’t always been Hield’s strong suit. It’s Thibodeau’s first draft as head coach, which usually comes with a little bit of importance. Dunn seems like the most likely pick here to stabilize all that potential in Minnesota. Plus, Andrew Wiggins kind of supersedes Hield at the 2.
No. 6 overall pick – New Orleans Pelicans
Why it fits: The Pelicans need an outside scorer on the wing. It’s not about whether or not New Orleans takes a two-guard here. The question is whether or not it’s Hield or Murray. Some say Hield. Some say Murray, who is more of a combo guard than Hield but is still a very similar player.
Why it doesn’t: Murray has the potential that Hield doesn’t. If Dunn is still on the board, the Pelicans could go with the former Friar to pair a true point guard with Anthony Davis.
No. 7 overall pick – Denver Nuggets
Why it fits: The Nuggets would love to grab a two-guard to pair with rising start Emmanuel Mudiay. Hield, who is a spectacular shooter and a sub-par defender, would fit as a perfect compliment.
Why it doesn’t: See previous Murray-Hield debate
No. 8 overall pick – Sacramento Kings
Why it fits: This is probably the most logical spot for Hield to end up. It’s low enough that all the potential-driven players are off the board, and it’s a team that needs wing scorer. DeMarcus Cousins mans the middle, but Hield would be a player would could stretch the court for one of the best centers in the game. He would also be a more welcoming personality than Cousins or Rajon Rondo.
Why it doesn’t: It’s hard to imagine this not fitting for Hield. There would be no reason to pass on Hield if he’s available here.
No. 9 overall pick – Toronto Raptors
Why it fits: The Raptors are likely going to lose superstar Demar DeRozan this offseason and could see Kyle Lowry depart after next year. They nearly knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Hield could play immediately for a playoff contender or be a difference-making shooter off the bench.
Why it doesn’t: He’s not on the board.
No. 10 overall pick – Milwaukee Bucks
Why it fits: The value here for Hield is unquestioned. It would be insane to pass up on him at this spot.
Why it doesn’t: He’s not on the board.
Where will Hield end up? The Boston Celtics.