Sacramento Kings: Buddy Hield is an underrated 6MOTY candidate

The last time a member of the Sacramento Kings won one of the six major postseason awards was Tyreke Evans back in 2010 when he captured the hearts of fans with averages exceeding 20 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds per game during his rookie campaign. Unfortunately, his career only trended downhill from there and the Kings have struggled to get a player back in the national spotlight since.

Most notably, DeMarcus Cousins earned a pair of All-NBA Second Team selections and the Kings even had a string of five picks make the All-Rookie Team during the six-year span of 2016 to 2021. Those names include Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley, and Tyrese Haliburton. It’s interesting to note that the best Kings prospect of this generation in De’Aaron Fox was the only one to not make the cut, so these awards must clearly be taken with a grain of salt.

However, it’s not Fox whom I next expect to compete for postseason accolades, that honor goes to Buddy Hield. With Haliburton set to make the starting shooting guard position his permanent home, many fans are concerned with Hield’s attitude and willingness to come off the bench. If this were a contract year for Buddy, I’d have to reluctantly agree with those sentiments. But considering he’s guaranteed nearly $62 million in salary over the next three years, Hield’s future earning potential isn’t in jeopardy here.

This means he could be more willing to come off the bench and provide a much-needed spark plug offensive presence in Sacramento’s second unit.

If Buddy Hield is to come off the bench for the Sacramento Kings, he’d immediately be a strong candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

This isn’t pure conjecture on my behalf. In fact, there’s already an established precedent for me to believe Hield coming off the bench would be a great decision. In four and a half seasons with the Kings, Hield has played off the bench in three of those seasons. He has only been a mainstay in the starting lineup twice, one of which was the 2020-21 season.

Hield most recently played a significant amount of time in 2019-20, where he started the first 44 games of the year before being relegated to the bench for the final 28 contests. Let’s break it down and compare his stat lines during that period.

Hield as a starter in 2019-20:
34.4 MPG, 20.0 PTS, 5.0 REB, 3.3 AST, 41.6 FG%, 36.0 3P%

Hield as a reserve in 2019-20:
25.1 MPG, 17.9 PTS, 3.8 REB, 2.5 AST, 45.4 FG%. 45.1 3P%

As you can see, Hield was far more efficient coming off the bench and put up nearly identical raw stat lines despite seeing the court for nearly 10 fewer minutes per night. That spike in efficiency sent Hield’s true shooting percentage skyrocketing and proved he’s just too good to be guarded by the weaker defenses provided by other teams’ bench units.

Hield’s usage actually rose following the switch, fully allowing him to take over the court and be the best version of himself without interfering with the starting unit’s chemistry. In fact, the highest-scoring game of Hield’s career came during this period, as he dropped 42 points off the bench against Minnesota on January 27.

According to BetMGM, Hield is tied for the 16th best odds to win Sixth Man of the Year, at +3000. Haliburton actually holds the 5th best odds for the award, which is ironic because most who have been following the Sacramento Kings know that Haliburton is the fans’ preferred option to start. That being said, we ultimately cannot know who Luke Walton plans to give the nod to at the onset of the season.

That being said, if Walton does decide to start Haliburton, Hield’s odds for Sixth Man of the YEar would obviously skyrocket. If you compare Hield’s 28 game stretch in 2020 to last year’s 6MOTY award winner Jordan Clarkson’s season, Buddy actually comes out on top in almost every scoring-related stat per 100 possessions. This is all to say that Hield would be incredibly likely to at least finish in the top 3 for voting for the award, so we’re unlikely to see odds this good again once the season begins.