Is Buddy Hield Our Next Stephen Curry?
The Oklahoma phenom is currently averaging 29 points per game on 56.7 percent shooting in the tournament and leading his Sooners to the Final Four for the first time since 2002.
Just this past Saturday, Hield single-handedly led Oklahoma past the one seeded Oregon Ducks by dropping a tournament best 37 points in a Curry-esque performance that put his flawless jumper on display as he went 8 for 13 from behind the arc.
But is it fair to compare Hield’s ascension to that of Steph Curry?
It depends who you ask.
Curry has come too far and accomplished a great deal to legitimately compare him and his current skill to any player in the NBA, nonetheless college basketball.
But what is evident is how Buddy Hield’s current situation draws strong parallels to the route Steph Curry was on back in 2008 when he was coming off a hot tournament run.
Granted Curry was just a sophomore at the time of his breakthrough, the fact that he was often overlooked and doubted by many and considered solely a shooter is something Hield will now face going into this year’s NBA draft.
Lucky for Buddy, his recent display of shooting finesse couldn’t have come at a better time, and it’s all thanks to Steph Curry.
The NBA is now a league that thrives off sharp shooters that can spread the floor and move without the ball. Something Hield has excelled at better than any collegiate player this season.
It’s never a safe bet to simply assess a player’s value off their NCAA tournament performance–something scouts dealt with after Curry’s big dance and will juggle with in regards to Hield.
Five of the past seven players to be named Final Four Most Outstanding Player (Tyus Jones, Shabazz Napier, Luke Hancock, Kyle Singler, Wayne Ellington) are nothing close to what one would consider a franchise player.
But unlike the five players mentioned, Curry and Hield cemented themselves as proven players long before their tourney runs, and provided a consistent display of what they’re capable of.
Both Curry and Hield dominated their competition throughout the regular season leading up to the tournament–Curry was selected as an All-American his junior year, while Hield is currently a finalist for the Wooden National Player of the Year award.
— Andrew Joseph (@AndyJ0seph) March 27, 2016
The aspect that may be the most important in both Hield and Curry’s rise to promise is their drive and willingness to improve.
Curry, rather than jumping into the draft after his strong sophomore season (that saw him lead the Davidson Wildcats to an Elite Eight birth as a 10 seed) stuck it out one more year with Davidson to develop into a point guard–a position he knew teams would want him to play in the NBA.
In a similar fashion, the jump Hield has made from his Junior to his Senior season has been astronomical. The Sooner shooting guard was always considered– and limited to being–a strong shooter, but has managed to improve his shooting and become extremely efficient from NBA range, while also improving on his defense and ability to drive to the basket.
Curry has illuminated for us first-hand what a strong drive to improve on your game’s weaknesses can lead to, and that knowledge gives us a significant insight on what Buddy Hield can become should he continue his habit of hard work.
The very fact that we’re now hesitant to dismiss a player’s speculative impact in the NBA after showing promise during his college career can very well be labeled the Curry effect.
Hield can flat-out score, but it’s without being said that his ability and will to want to improve, to want to be the best at whatever level he is competing at will be the determining factor on how his career pans out in the NBA.
At 6’4? Hield is said to be limited to the two-guard position. While his defensive game could use work, he has the athleticism and build to become a competent defender against most guards in the NBA. His offensive game is already considered NBA ready and should be seen as a player that can offer something similar to the success attained by the Rockets’ James Harden, and most recently, the Portland Trailblazers’ C.J. McCollum.
So while his overall game may not be on the same level of reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry just yet, he has nothing but time ahead of him to mold himself into the type of player Curry has been able to shape himself into since coming into the league as an overlooked, undersized guard with nothing more than a sweet jump-shot and a willingness to improve.
[Photo by Tom Pennington,Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]