If there’s any NBA trading block resident who deserves to transition to a contender this season, it’s not James Harden or Damian Lillard, it’s newcomer Buddy Hield. At least Dame Time has advanced to the brink of a Conference Finals. Hield has never even sailed the postseason waters. His 548 games played without a postseason appearance is the longest drought for any active player by a margin of 200 games.
However, Shams Charania’s reporting that the Indiana Pacers and Hield have agreed to find him a new home for the upcoming season after contract negotiations stalled should make ears perk up around NBA front offices. Behind Harden and Lillard, Hield becomes the third wheel loitering on the NBA trading block. Hield doesn’t have the star power to make demands related to his next team, but his relatively affordable $19 million salary in the final year of a four-year deal makes his contract easy to move.
Hield’s unique skill set as one of the league’s most accurate long-distance archers makes him the type of swing player who can give playoff teams a slight edge. Of course, this is all theoretical because he’s never been there before. The last time we saw Hield in a postseason, he was the runaway Player of the Year after carrying Oklahoma to a Final Four.
As a pro, Hield has logged six of the 12 instances of a shooter draining over 40 percent of his 3-pointers on at least eight attempts per game in NBA history. He took fewer games to reach 1,000 3-pointers than any player ever. In December, he drained the quickest triple after tipoff in 40 years of the NBA 3-point line’s existence.
Since 2018, no player has made more three-pointers than Hield’s 1,381 triples. Granted, a majority of his 3-pointers are of the catch-and-shoot variety, but if you had to choose between Hield, and Klay Thompson in 2023, you’re getting more consistency from Hield. But they don’t call Thompson, Game 6 Klay, for no reason. He, Steph Curry, and Draymond Green have produced championships, and Finals appearances on an assembly line.
However, Hield’s eternal playoff virginity has overshadowed his career narrative. Despite possessing one of the most important skills for a modern NBA offense, he’s been stuck on teams stuck in quicksand. The apex of Hield’s career was dropping 42 the night after Kobe Bryant passed and defeating Devin Booker in the 2020 3-Point Contest.
Interestingly, the closest proximity Playoff A.C. Green has had to postseason play was a trade to the Lakers that fell through because Lakers general manager Rob Pelinkas was under the impression that Russell Westbrook was exactly what the doctor ordered for the NBA’s most near-sighted shooting team needed over one of its purest shooters. The Lakers have the opportunity to make amends for that blunder as well if they want to take another crack at Hield.
Hield has been traded twice before: once from New Orleans to Sacramento during his rookie season and a second time to Indiana. Entering his pre-agency season, Hield is thoroughly underrated due in part to his lack of postseason exposure. But his addition to an established contender would be enough to slightly tip the balance slightly.
Hield was part of the Kings trade that sent Tyrese Haliburton and Tristan Thomspon to Indiana for Domantas Sabonis. The widely panned acquisition of Sabonis turned the Kings into the revelation of the 2022-23 season while the Pacers fizzled out by midseason. To add insult to injury, Malik Monk and former Kings teammate De’Aaron Fox owned the second and third-longest droughts until last spring. Indiana’s timing is antithetical to what they’ve done this summer acquiring Bruce Brown, and Obi Toppin, and extending Myles Turner. Ultimately though, Indiana’s development track is misaligned with the 30-year-old Hield’s timeline.
In a swamp, Hield could be used as a skeleton key to the scuttled James Harden negotiations between the Clippers and 76ers. Hield is clearly inferior to Harden, but he’d be addition by subtraction. Tyrese Maxey would play on the ball more and they wouldn’t often see Hield shoot them out of games or series’ like Harden had a tendency to do once he triggers hero-ball mode.
Or he could be situated between Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić in Dallas. They just splurged on Seth Curry and need to bulk up defensively, but you can never have too many off-ball shooters between two heliocentric stars. Giannis has been subtly hinting at the Bucks getting more active in building a sustainable champion, but the addition of Hield would kill two birds with one stone by spacing the floor, making them more formidable at 2-guard, and he’s young enough to still do this at a high level for another half-decade.
There’s still a remote chance some fringe playoff team or rebuilding franchise ponies for him to serve as a veteran presence, but trading Hield to another team that could be on the postseason bubble would be cruel by Indiana, and a losing gamble for the team that obtains Hield if he leaves next summer. Wherever the trade winds take him, his postseason drought is about to reach the end of its road.
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