Buddy Hield is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. In just seven seasons in the league, Hield is already 29th all-time in made 3-pointers. If he hits the same number that he hit this past season he will likely be 20th after next year. The only players to hit more than 260 3-pointers in a season multiple times are Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Buddy Hield. That’s exceptional company to hold.
Here’s the question that has to be asked, however. If Hield is such an exceptional shooter, and shooting is so important to modern NBA offense, why would the Pacers not want to keep him around? Why was he constantly on the trading block in Sacramento?
The answer is a difficult one to parse out. The Pacers were undeniably dangerous on offense when Buddy Hield was on the court, but he gives some of it back on defense. When Hield and Tyrese Haliburton shared the court last season the Pacers had a 117.7 offensive rating; that would have tied the Philadelphia 76ers for the fourth-best rating in the league last season. Unfortunately, they also gave up a 116.8 defensive rating. For the season lineups with Hield had a negative rating; part of that was the rotation around Hield, but much of it was his sieve-like approach to defense.
Are there other reasons? Pure shooters like J.J. Redick and Kyle Korver were poor defenders and their teams still greatly benefited from their presence on the court. Is Hield simply unlucky, and in the right situation he can blossom into that kind of impact? Or is he simply a high-end version of Duncan Robinson or Seth Curry, too damaging on defense to survive?
That’s an important question for the Cavaliers to answer because it would determine whether this kind of trade makes any sense for them to make. Trading for Hield after signing Max Strus would be duplicitous, but Hield unquestionably is a more impactful shooter than Strus. Can he hold up at small forward? Probably not; is it worth $20 million or more per season on a new contract for him to come off the bench?
Loading up on too many small wings is the problem the Cavaliers have already been dealing with. Hield would have a massive target on him defensively. Something has prevented him from being truly wanted by the teams he has played for. Adding him could easily turn into a mistake.
And yet. His combination of shooting accuracy and volume is unheard of outside of a star player, and it’s incredibly difficult to acquire such a player. Should the Cavs take a shot? Probably not, especially after already investing in Max Strus, but it’s something to think about. Hield’s shooting is that special.