(First posted RealGM)
Hield is a polarizing figure in some ways.
The 22-year-old from the Bahamas was the best player in college basketball last season, leading Oklahoma to the Final Four and impressing many with his ability to shoot the ball from any spot on the floor.
He’s also a favorite of those who value character particularly high. According to RCSI, Hield arrived at Norman as the 111th-ranked prospect in his high school class, without much hype over his chances to ever reach the pro level. From that point on, he improved every year and is now expected to go in the top 10 of next week’s draft.
Hield’s top skill is his ability to shoot very well from deep range at a high volume, which is in high demand in this Era of NBA basketball. He is an excellent spot-up gunner – exhibiting great balance elevating off 1-2 footwork, compact mechanics and a quick release. Hield has proven able to hit these shots not only out of standstill position but also in transition and relocating to an open spot around the perimeter off an offensive rebound, aside from making one-dribble pull-ups out of side dribbles to escape closeouts.
He nailed a jaw-dropping 45.7% of his 322 three-point shots last season, at a pace of 9.8 three-point attempts per 40 minutes. That’s remarkable accuracy at a really appealing rate.
Some people have likened his style of play to JJ Redick’s, probably due to the similarity in body composition but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate at this point. Hield has flashed the ability to come off baseline and side screens, set his feet and let it fly but nothing compared to the sort of sprinting from side-to-side around staggered screens at full speed the way Redick does. Maybe he is capable of doing such a thing but that’s not the way he was utilized at Oklahoma.
The skepticism over his status as a top 10 pick regards his ability to do pretty much everything else.
Hield has enough ball-handling, a little hesitation move, a somewhat effective crossover and a well-coordinated step-back routine to create enough separation to pull-up from long range when he’s tasked with creating a shot late in the clock. And he’s proven absolutely able to hit these shots at a pleasing rate as well, nailing 46 unassisted three-pointers last season – according to hoop-math.
But he is not any sort of asset to create on the ball for himself or others on a consistent basis. Hield’s handle is not strong enough to withstand pressure and he’s mostly shown to be a one-speed guy running pick-and-roll. The more he dribbles, the less likely Hield is to create a good shot. He lacks the quickness to turn the corner, craftiness to generate high quality looks from mid-range and burst to attack length at the rim with explosiveness, though he did show nice touch on non-dunk finishes when he’s managed to beat the opposing big to the goal on straight line drives – converting 64% of his 184 shots at the rim last season. He’s also consistently struggled to put teammates in scoring position, lacking court vision on the move – posting 12% more turnovers than assists over his four years at Oklahoma.
There’s also skepticism over whether he can defend at even an average level. Hield has average measurables for a shooting guard – possessing a six-foot-five, 212-pound frame with a six-foot-nine wingspan. Those are good enough tools to reasonably expect him to develop into at least a “zero” defender (doesn’t help but doesn’t hurt) in time, though that’s not necessarily the case yet, since Hield has lapsed focus on quite a few instances defending off the ball.
But the problem is he does not add much optionality, lacking the lateral quickness for a coach to feel comfortable having him defend opposing point guards around ball-screens and the length needed to make a true difference guarding bigger wings. That said, I do think he might offer some switch-ability, picking up less threatening true big men on switches, as he does put in the effort in one-on-one instances and posted above average defensive rebounding rates over the last two seasons – according to our stats database.
Hield is, therefore, not the perfect prototype wing for this Era – one that is prioritizing guys with the optimal combination of length and lateral quickness in order to guard positions up and down and, aside from hitting open threes, also being able to run side pick-and-roll in a pinch and pass on the move in order to keep the offense moving.
Hield is, however, a sick shot maker and I think that’s why he’s ultimately rated as a top 10 guy in this draft. Seems ridiculous when written like this but making shots matters a lot. It’s why Devin Booker and Kristaps Porzingis were able to come in and contribute right away.
That obviously doesn’t mean Hield has no bust-ability, though. As we’ve seen with guys like Nik Stauskas, Doug McDermott and Jimmer Fredette, the ecosystem a shooter like that (zero on defense at best, dependent on others to get shots) is in can be the difference between sticking around a rotation, sticking around the bottom and sticking around the league at all.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara