• Alder Almo

Buddy Hield Turns Out To Be A King’s Ransom

USA Today

When Vlade Divac pulled the trigger that sent former Sacramento Kings franchise player DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017, the news sent shockwaves around the NBA and most, if not all media members, quickly branded it as one of the worst trades in the history of the league.

Sports Illustrated said the Kings got fleeced. USA Today ran a story that the Kings got robbed.

But Divac thought otherwise.

In what many perceived as an underwhelming package back then, the Kings got Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and two 2017 (first and second round) draft picks in return for Cousins and Omri Casspi.

Divac allowed Evans and Galloway to walk away after the season, leaving the Kings with Hield and the two draft picks which were later parlayed into young prospects.

The 2017 first round pick became no.10, which the Pelicans traded to Portland for the 15th and 20th picks. Those picks were used to get Justin Jackson and Harry Giles III. Jackson was packaged with Zach Randolph to acquire Harrison Barnes this season. The second round pick was used to select Frank Mason III.

Trading away Cousins at that time also helped the Kings tank, allowing them to keep their own top-10 protected pick, which could have gone to the Chicago Bulls, but became the fifth overall pick in 2017, De’Aaron Fox.

So basically, the Kings got Hield, Barnes, Giles III, Mason III, and Fox in return for trading away Cousins. In all of these situations, teams are unsure of what they might be able to get in regards to future picks. In the case of Hield, the Kings knew they were getting a high character player.

“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization. Winning begins with culture and character matters,” Divac said in the aftermath of the Cousins trade.

Two years later and that statement has become synonymous with Buddy Hield’s NBA journey.

Buoyed by a strong determination built in Freeport, a city in the Bahamas, Hield literally worked his way up to become a top NBA prospect, collecting the John R. Wooden, Naismith and Oscar Robertson trophies in his senior year as a member of the Oklahoma Sooners.

Hield was drafted 6th overall and had to watch players like Croatian Dragan Bender and Providence product Kris Dunn getting picked ahead of him. The sixth overall pick’s new home would be New Orleans. But just midway into his rookie season, he was jettisoned to the Kings as the centerpiece of the package.

With a fresh start in an environment that really made him feel wanted, Hield quietly put in the work and started the culture shift in Sacramento.

Often the last King to leave the gym, the unassuming Hield, whose welcoming smile hides a no nonsense attitude, was a refreshing change to the volatile Cousins era in Sacramento that was marred by run-ins with game officials and media.

Hield is about to close his best season in the league as the scoring leader of the young Kings, who may fall short of the playoffs, but have put the crowded Western Conference on notice as a team on the rise.

He’s already starting to break franchise records with his 261 three-pointers as of last Thursday eclipsing his mentor and current Kings’ assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic’s 240 makes in a single season.

He has made a significant jump in all major categories making him another worthy candidate in the Most Improved Player race out West.

Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé was frowned upon when he billed Buddy Hield as the next Stephen Curry.

But two-and-a-half seasons later, Hield is charting towards that trajectory and is actually producing more in his third year compared to Curry, though the latter was limited to just 26 games in an injury-riddled third season in the league.

While the jury is still out whether Hield will approximate the Curry comparison, the former doesn’t want to be known as just a one-dimensional catch-and-shoot player in the league. Hield has taken his game to another level, often taking on the challenge to get the opposing team’s best backcourt player in defensive matchups to show his willingness to develop into a two-way player.

From running on the streets in the Bahamas to chasing stardom in the NBA, Hield’s experience as middle-distance runner and his great work ethic have prepared him for this.

He’s built for the modern NBA. In this pace-and-space era, the indefatigable Hield could become one of the elite shooting guards in the years to come if his game continues to grow and expand.

Whatever happens in the Kings’ remaining games, they have started to revive that old winning culture Divac and co. built in the early 2000s that reached its peak when they pushed the Kobe-Shaq-led Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals.

The Kings are on the right path and it’s just a matter of time before they make the playoffs. Thanks to Divac’s much-maligned decision in 2017.

Winning begins with culture and character and for this new batch of Kings, it all began when they traded Cousins for Hield.

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