The stories spilled out as quickly as his shot. Buddy Hield shared how former Lakers star Kobe Bryant peppered him with advice on footwork during a private workout. Bryant outlined the importance of film study when Hield starred for four seasons at the University of Oklahoma. And Bryant encouraged Hield’s bravado that prompted him to say there is “no doubt” he represents the best shooter in the 2016 NBA Draft.
So as the Lakers encounter the 2016-16 season without Bryant’s scoring for the first time in 20 years, Hield pointed at himself as the immediate solution.
“This is what the franchise needs,” Hield said. “The Lakers are losing Kobe and they need a scorer. So why not call on me to fill in their spot?”
Plenty of rebuttals await, which will often include the mention of Duke forward Brandon Ingram.
Most NBA mock drafts predict the Lakers will select Ingram at No. 2 because of his outside shooting, defense and work ethic at the wing spot. Hield could have just completed his second workout with the Lakers on Saturday for the unexpected scenario that the Lakers trade their No. 2 pick for a slot later in the draft. But after leading the Pac-12 averaging 25 points per game his senior season, Hield scoffed at most mock drafts projecting him late in the top 10.
“Everybody has their opinions on where they can go, but most of those guys never have touched a basketball,” Hield said. “GM’s know what they’re looking for and which players suit their franchise the best.”
NBA mock drafts project Ben Simmons and Ingram on the top of the list for reasons beyond their versatility. Intrigue has also emerged at their long-term potential. Scouts have gushed about Simmons’ playmaking and Ingram’s versatility. Yet, question marks have emerged. Does Simmons have enough dedication after failing to lead LSU to a tournament appearance and currently refusing to workout with any NBA team, including the Lakers? Can Ingram thrive in a more physical NBA after weighing a rail-thin 190 pounds?
Meanwhile, Hield spent all four seasons with the Sooners showing marked improvement in scoring as a freshman (7.8), sophomore (16.5), junior (17.4) and senior (25). He also led Oklahoma his senior season to a Final Four appearance. With concerns on whether the 23-year-old Hield has already hit his peak, he mentioned Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and forward Draymond Green and Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum also stayed in college for three or four years before becoming NBA stars.
“It’s funny how they say you stay four years in college and you can’t get better,” said Hield, who has also worked out with Boston, New Orleans and Phoenix. “They are the superstars in the league.”
Can Hield become a superstar?
He shared he once hit 59 consecutive shots during a private workout in Anaheim. Hield also reportedly made 85 out of 100 3-point attempts during his Celtics workout. Yet, even the confident Hield admitted his own weaknesses.
He argued he has to improve in “everything,” ranging from defense, ball handling and physical makeup in his 6’3,” 212-pound frame. After going through both hot and cold shooting stretches during Saturday’s workout, Hield admitted he “wasn’t satisfied” with his shooting performance. Whenever he missed a shot, Hield called himself “Buddy Fresh,” which he said serves as his “alter ego”. Shortly afterwards, Hield then began hitting shots again.
So Hield reverted back to his visit with Bryant during the NCAA tournament, a visit he called a “dream come true.”
“It was a blessing. Most kids can’t say they’ve learned something from Kobe Bryant.” Hield said. “It’s about being mentally focused every time you get on the court and study your opponents.”
Hield’s connection to the Lakers went beyond Bryant, who also shares the same agent in Rob Pelinka. Hield reported feeling a special connection to former Lakers forwards Mychal Thompson and Rick Fox after also they also grew up in the Bahamas. Hield also seemed compelled to root for the Golden State Warriors on Sunday in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers since they wear shades of purple and gold. Thompson’s son, Klay, represents one of the Warriors’ sharp shooters. Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton will coach the Lakers once the Finals ends.
“We always talk and he tells me to keep my head up and stay focused,” Hield said of Mychal Thompson. “I’m sure he’s hoping I get here.”
So does Hield, who argued passionately the Lakers would make the right choice in going against conventional wisdom.
“I’ve been a confident player. I’ve been under pressure my whole life,” Hield said. “The Lakers expect to win. I’m a player that comes in to expect to win right away.”