Has the Buddy Hield situation reached a point of no return?
The Kings shooting guard was one of the feel good stories of the 2018-19 NBA season. Due to an injury to Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hield was pressed into the starting shooting guard role in Sacramento alongside De’Aaron Fox.
Hield flourished in the role so much that he earned himself a monster contract with the Kings last October. But as the ink was drying on his newly signed four-year, $86 million deal with incentives that could push the deal above $100 million, Hield felt slighted.
He wanted more money and in the end, the negotiations that yielded Hield the highest contract in Kings franchise history might have been the beginning of the end.
Before Hield has collected a single game check for his new contract with the Kings, it appears he is attempting to push his way out the door.
Jason Jones of The Athletic reported Friday, citing sources, that “Hield has soured on [Luke] Walton to the point he will not answer his coach’s phone calls.”
This is the second straight season that Hield has “soured” on a Kings head coach. Despite having a breakout season under Dave Joerger, it was Hield, amongst others, who wanted Joerger replaced.
Under Walton, Hield started the first 44 games of the season, but with the team struggling, the Kings’ coach made an adjustment to the starting lineup on Jan. 24. Hield was sent to the second unit and Bogdan Bogdanovic was elevated to the starting five.
At the time, the Kings had lost six straight and dropped 14 games under .500 at 15-29. Walton’s squad responded by finishing out the pre-bubble season with a 13-7 record over their final 20 games.
The Kings’ struggles were not all on Hield. He’s a tireless worker and one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. It should also be noted that Sacramento acquired Kent Bazemore and Alex Len at this same point in the season, which added more depth and versatility to the rotation.
When the Kings finally returned to play in the Orlando bubble, Hield struggles continued. When he reported to Sacramento for the restart, he tested positive for the coronavirus and was quarantined for two weeks. He recovered quickly and joined the team in Orlando, but he posted just 14.3 points in 21.4 minutes per game in the eight game restart.
Adding to the intrigue of the Hield situation is that general manager Vlade Divac, who signed Hield to the extension in October, walked away from the team following the Kings’ meltdown in the bubble. The Hall of Fame center has been replaced by new general manager Monte McNair, who backed Walton as one of his first orders of business with the team.
The easiest solution might be for McNair to get Hield and Walton on a Zoom call and try to mend fences. But in most situations, decisions like who starts and who comes off the bench is usually up to the coach.
If it all continues to go south, trading Hield isn’t all that complex for McNair and his group. He makes just under $25 million for the upcoming season, which means that Sacramento would need to either find a trade partner with cap space or be willing to take on incoming player salaries of approximately $20 million at a minimum.
Hield is an elite 3-point shooter and there should be a market for his services. Sacramento could also ignore the noise and hope that Hield takes the high road once training camp starts, whenever that may be.
Either way, this is an early test for McNair, who might have to make a $100 million decision on his highest paid player before he even has a chance to fully relocate to Sacramento.
If McNair moves on from Hield, it might make it easier for him to retain Bogdanovic, who is expecting his own pay day this summer as a restricted free agent. It would also potentially free up space for Fox’s expected max money contract extension.
Welcome to Sacramento, Mr. McNair.