Sacramento Kings two-guard Buddy Hield is one of the third-year players who’s eligible to receive a rookie-scale extension this summer.
Hield’s position as far as getting an extension seems to be pretty cut and dry: He’s coming off a career season with averages of 20.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in 2018-19, he’s one of the best shooters in the league (having hit 42.9 percent of his threes over the last two seasons) and his game is clearly on an upward trajectory.
For a Kings team that has been light on upper-echelon talent for a very long time, doing everything within their power to keep their best (relatively) young guys should be a no-brainer, especially considering how close Sacramento looks to be to turning the corner as a team.
And don’t be mistaken: Hield is approaching upper-echelon talent status, at least offensively.
According to Synergy Sports, the Bahamian sharpshooter ranked as a “very good” point producer in three separate play-types (in transition, in dribble hand-off situations and in isolation plays), and as an “excellent” one in two others (as a spot-up shooter and coming off screens). What’s more, Value Over Replacement Player, Win Shares and Box Plus/Minus all had Hield as roughly a Top-70ish player in 2018-19.
If he’s able to work on his weaknesses – getting to the foul line more often (which would provide a huge boost to his offensive output since he’s an 87.4 percent shooter from the foul stripe for his career) and getting tougher on defense, particularly – there’s no reason to think Hield can’t at least reach Top-50 player status in his fourth season.
HoopsHype spoke to various league executives back in September, and they all spoke pretty certainly about the possibility of Hield landing a big extension from Sacramento.
One Eastern Conference general manager told us: “I know for a fact that the owner, Vivek Ranadive, loves him. He played really well last season, he’s a great kid and he plays his ass off. Is he a max player? No. But I could see them getting something done.”
An assistant coach in the Western Conference echoed that sentiment: “Buddy Hield may honestly be in the best position to get an extension when you’re looking at the Kings’ make-up and the fact that he has an opportunity to be their best player. Sacramento may decide he’s their guy and they want to lock him in. I think they love his potential, and they’d obviously know more than I would in terms of where he’s at now and his room for growth.”
With that in mind, it’s pretty surprising that Hield and the Kings seem to have hit a snag during their extension negotiations.
The most recent reports on the matter state that Hield isn’t necessarily seeking the max, but regardless felt insulted by Sacramento’s offer, which was reportedly worth $90 million (via The Athletic):
“Hield isn’t demanding a max deal, but he wants the Kings to show him some respect. ‘It’s not just about less than the max, it’s something that is reasonable, where it’s not an insult,’ Hield said. ‘Where we respect each on a level and come to an agreement, that’s the biggest thing between me and my team, to come to an agreement.’”
In addition, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Hield might even seek a change of scenery if he and the Kings can’t come to an agreement by the deadline for rookie-scale extensions, adding that “he believes he is worth the same” as max or near-max guard like Murray, Bradley Beal and CJ McCollum
This lines up with Hield’s recent comments to reporters, as he said he may look for a new home if he doesn’t get extended (via The Sacramento Bee):
“If it don’t get done, me and my team will look for something else – probably another home,” Hield said. “Until then, we’ll see if they really want me here. … They’ve just got to make something happen before the deadline. I have people I need to take care of. If they don’t trust me or they don’t believe in me, then I might be able to move on and try another option.”
Needless to say: Things seem to be getting dicey between the two parties, and if Sacramento isn’t careful, they could be staring at a trade demand from one of their two best players, which is (obviously) not the way they want to kick off an important season.
This, however, has always been one of the dangers regarding rookie-scale extensions and the looming prospect of restricted free agency; if you don’t extend your young guys, you are risking upsetting them by making them feel undervalued, which usually leads to them signing the biggest (and least team-friendly) offer sheet they can find as restricted free agents.
An Eastern Conference executive described this delicate balance to HoopsHype: “Restricted free agency is a blessing and a curse. While you won’t lose your guy (because you can match the offer sheet), it can create bad feelings. There can be tension between the team and the player.”
Another important factor to consider is the weakness of the 2020 free-agent class. As of now, Hield is ranked as our ninth-best free agent next summer, but with another strong season, he could easily work his way into the Top 5. One Eastern Conference exec actually believes it’d be beneficial for Hield to avoid an extension all together and wait for restricted free agency: “There’s a big incentive for a lot of these guys like Buddy Hield to wait because the 2020 free-agent class is weak, so they could possibly play their way into a max or near-max contract.”
That’s all to say: If Hield doesn’t get extended by Sacramento this offseason, it’s not hard to imagine his path to landing a max contract offer next summer, which could put the Kings in a pickle financially, particularly with potential extension talks with De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic still looming.
We must also consider the fact that Hield is about to turn 27, making him quite old for his draft class, which is probably at least part of the reason why Sacramento seems hesitant to hand him a full max. Hield’s game, predicated mostly on shooting, both with his feet set and off the dribble, should age gracefully, but him being nearly 31 by the time a full max extension would expire is still something that needs to be thought about.
We’ll see where this saga goes, but the clock is ticking for the two sides to get a deal done, and if one doesn’t come to fruition, the fireworks that follow could get interesting.
HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy contributed to this report.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.