Photo by EPA/JASON SZENES
MANILA, Philippines – After missing the 2016 NBA Playoffs following a disappointing 30-52 regular season record, the New Orleans Pelicans are starting their climb back to postseason relevance by selecting Oklahoma standout Buddy Hield with the sixth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft on Friday, June 24 (Manila time).
Hield played all 4 years of his NCAA Division I eligibility with the Sooners and leaves with two Big 12 Player of the Year awards (2015-2016), the 2016 Naismith College Player of the Year award, and the 2016 John R. Wooden Award (2016).
His game was enough to entice New Orleans management in the draft, giving the team’s franchise player Anthony Davis a potential co-star to help carry the franchise for at least the next few years.
“My first-year goal is to be the best player I can be on and off the court, bring a lot of energy to the team, and try to help lead the team to the playoffs,” Hield told international media during a video chat courtesy of Cisco after getting drafted.
The 22-year-old Hield averaged 25 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2 assists a game while shooting 50% from the field and 46% from downtown for Oklahoma last NCAA season.
His ability to spread the floor will help clear the paint for Davis and his playmaking abilities will give the Pelicans another option on the perimeter.
“I’m really excited to play with him,” Hield said about Davis, whom many believe to be the NBA’s next best player. “He’s a special talent, he’s an All-Star player, he’s a top 5 player. I’m just happy to be there, happy to spread the floor for him and I’m just going to go there and follow his lead.
“He’s a team leader obviously so I’m just glad to be in this position and hopefully I can help them get to the playoffs again.”
The Pelicans made the NBA Playoffs in 2015 but were swept by the Golden State Warriors. After the Dubs assistant coach Alvin Gentry was hired to become New Orleans’ new head coach, they were expected to return the playoffs and present even more of a challenge.
But a slow start, injuries to key players, and errant defense had the Pelicans in the NBA Draft Lottery chase instead of in the postseason hunt.
“I’m a confident player,” said Hield about making an instant impact. “I play with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger. I bring a lot to the table and I expect to do that.
“They need a shooter,” he said about New Orleans. “They need somebody that can help Anthony Davis out, and I’m the guy. I’m always confident in my game.” – Rappler.com