The Denver Stiffs will be covering all of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft in our Stiffs NBA draft series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of all the projected first round prospects.
Stiffs Draft Series
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Perimeter Shooting: Hield is an incredibly efficient three-point shooter. During his senior year at Oklahoma, he shot a sizzling 45.7% while leading the NCAA with 147 threes last season. In the past twenty years, only Steph Curry and Akeem Richmond have more makes in a single season but neither were close to Hield's percentage. His shooting ability will make him an instant contributor to whatever team he ends up on.
Intangibles: At 22 years old, Hield is scoffed at by some for his age but this also means he is NBA ready, arguably more so than any of the other lottery picks. He has an incredible work ethic - as a freshman, he shot 23.8% from three and has put the work in to improve his overall game year after year. He's known as a gym rat and plays with a chip on his shoulder, which has gotten him from the poor streets of the Bahamas to now becoming a lottery pick. He's very professional, relentlessly positive and is coming to the NBA with no red flags. Simply put, Hield is the kind of guy you want in your locker room.
Shooting Form: Hield has honed his shot over the years and now has a beautiful shooting form. It's got a silky smooth release and is one of the quicker triggers out there. In college his quick release has enabled him to shoot effectively off the dribble, in transition and in pretty much any situation necessary, including from NBA range.
Predictability: Hield has all the tools to make an elite three point shooter in the league, but other than that he doesn't offer much. He's shown that he can drive and finish but his favorite go-to move is a step-back jumper that will be hard to translate to the NBA, especially given his smaller size for a shooting guard. He also lacks quickness off the dribble and needs to be much more creative in his scoring.
Defense: Defense might be Hield's biggest downside. He is undersized for a shooting guard and without the elite athleticism it will be hard to look past that. He has some length at a 6'8 wingspan, but he also has shown mental lapses on defense that will kill him in the NBA. He'll start off as a one-position defender and as he fills in a bit more should be able to hold his own, but if he really needs to improve his mental fortitude. His defense will determine his ceiling as an overall NBA player.
Playmaking: For someone who shouldered such a heavy load of an entire team's offense, Hield certainly lacked in playmaking ability at Oklahoma. He only had a 12.7% assist rate which is a number far below what you'd expect or want to see from someone with such high usage. In the NBA he won't be the primary option, but if he can't distribute more effectively he won't see much playing time.
J.J. Redick: Redick came into the league as one of the best college three point shooters of all time, but it wasn't until he developed the other aspects of his game that he really became a good NBA player. If Hield can buy in on defense and improve his playmaking and off the ball he will have a meaningful career like Redick.
C.J. McCollum: McCollum has turned into a versatile scorer who averaged 20.8 ppg en route to the Most Improved Player award. Hield has the potential to also become a 20 ppg scorer, but will need to improve his passing to become like McCollum.
Jimmer Fredette: I hate to do it because I think Hield already possesses enough physical tools to make up for what Jimmer lacked his entire life, but all the hype in the world couldn't give Fredette an NBA career. Hield might not be at the point of Jimmermania, but if for some strange reason Hield does end up being a bust he will fit in nicely next to Fredette as some of the top college shooters to fail in the NBA.
Fit with the Nuggets
There's a reason that Hield is projected to go to Denver in most mock drafts; he would be bring much needed outside shooting to the Nuggets, a team that only shot 33.8% from three in 2015-16. His outside shooting would be useful in spreading the floor and could create new opportunities for the often stagnant offense to improve. As a perimeter shooter, Hield wouldn't need to be the first or even second option on offense and instead could specialize in shooting while mitigating other areas on offense where he struggles more like passing and turnovers. Hield's presence alone could fill the Nuggets' most important need and would certainly be a sight for sore eyes.
The question, however, is more of where Hield would fit in as on paper the Nuggets already have some solid depth at shooting guard in Gary Harris and Will Barton. Harris will be entering his third year as a pro despite being one year younger than Hield, but he only shot 35.4% from three last year - not a good number for a shooting guard in today's NBA. He is however an outstanding defender, a crafty passer and still is yet to reach his ceiling. Barton had a tremendous season, finishing fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting off of his energetic ability to produce points off the bench in a variety of ways. However, from a three point shooting perspective Barton only shot 34.5% from long range, even worse than Harris.
For Hield to really make an impact on Denver's offense as a rookie either Harris or Barton would have to be expendable. It would be easy to see Hield become the starting shooting guard and bring Harris off the bench just for his shooting alone, but if Harris improves his three point shot even just a few percentage points he becomes more valuable for his defensive ability. At the same time, Barton is a better overall scorer than both and is so good on the second unit that you wouldn't really want to see his minutes decrease much either. If the Nuggets select Hield (or Murray), some decisions will have to be made at shooting guard.
Projected Draft Spot
SB Nation - 7 (Nuggets)
CBS Sports - 7 (Nuggets)
Sports Illustrated - 7 (Nuggets)
I like Buddy Hield, I really do. I think he would be a great fit for the Nuggets and especially for the culture that Tim Connelly and Michael Malone are trying to build. He's literally worked his way to the top, is a class act individual and would be yet another positive addition to the Nuggets' youth movement. The Nuggets would be a better team with Hield on the roster and I would have no problems with him being drafted at seven IF Jamal Murray and Kris Dunn are already off the board.
A lot of people discount Hield because of his age (which I normally think is kind of dumb) but in this case I'm worried because at 22 Hield is still so one-dimensional. Granted, he's shown tremendous improvement over the course of his college career, but at 19 Murray has a much higher ceiling and both him and Dunn are more well rounded. If the Nuggets try and move up in the draft, it wouldn't make sense to get Hield if either of these guys are available. But if they are both gone by the seventh pick and the Nuggets are seriously looking to bolster the offense, Hield will be an almost guaranteed way to do it.