The NBA draft is all about upside, and understandably so: Past performance doesn’t necessarily equate to future success, and the college game is wildly different from the pros. Every GM yearns to outsmart the competition, and every coach thinks he has the Midas touch. As a result, raw 18-year-olds and international mystery men are often prioritized over players who seemingly maxed out in college. When it comes to drafting productive upperclassmen, there are 10 Jimmer Fredettes for every Steph Curry.
But it’s important to remember that not all prospects possess an untapped reservoir of talent. Sometimes dudes just look the part, which is why the Hasheem Thabeets of the world end up getting taken with the second overall pick. This brings us to Buddy Hield, the Wooden Award winner and linchpin of Oklahoma’s Final Four run. Because, in case you forgot, Buddy was freaking unstoppable.
The read on Buddy is that, at 22, he’ll be hard-pressed to develop into anything beyond the pure scorer that he was on campus. It’s always hard for hero-ball artists in college to conform to being role players in the NBA, and Buddy has become just another name expected to be called toward the middle of the lottery. In the whirlwind of technical analysis that precedes the draft, the jaw-dropping incredibleness of his senior campaign has been lost. And that’s a damn shame.
Let’s start by revisiting the greatest bank shot that never was: Buddy’s 50-foot, would-be buzzer-beater against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament semifinals, which likely triggered a record number of heart attacks in Norman and Morgantown alike:
The fact this half-court bomb was ultimately waved off is our strongest evidence yet against the existence of a benevolent god. In a perfect world, the laws of time and space wouldn’t apply to feats of athletic greatness (just ask Paul Pierce), but at least we can take comfort in Buddy’s game-winning 3 against Texas, which he got off with plenty of time to spare:
Meanwhile, Buddy also outdueled presumptive no. 1 pick Ben Simmons in the Sooners’ 77–75 victory over LSU in late January, dropping 32 points, snagging seven boards, and going 8-of-15 from 3-point range:
Buddy should wear LeBron’s tea lizard hat to the draft, because after reviewing the tape, it’s hard to justify how Simmons — who was held to 14 points in 39 minutes of play — is going to be picked ahead of him tonight. Moreover, this wasn’t even Buddy’s best performance of the season — that distinction goes to his 46-point outburst in a triple-overtime epic against top-ranked Kansas:
When your highlight package from a single game lasts longer than seven minutes, it’s safe to assume you played well. Of course, impressively long highlight reels were par for the course for Buddy in 2015–16, and while there’s obviously more that goes into player evaluation than YouTube clips, Buddy’s make it hard to believe that he doesn’t have a promising future in the NBA. If he’s already reached his ceiling, so be it — it’s still pretty damn high.