I love you, Buddy: Why the Celtics should draft Buddy Hield with the number 3 pick

There is something about Buddy Hield that just doesn't seem right when it comes to selecting him with the third overall pick. And it's that feeling that gets people like me - who just a few months ago craved Buddy in green with every fiber of our hearts - to look for alternates.

Dragan Bender is a 19 year old multi skilled 7 footer. Jamal Murray, also 19, is a scoring machine. Kris Dunn might not be a great fit, but he's got promise and heart. Marquese Chriss might not know how to play defense - literally, because he's only played for so long - but he's got a smooth stroke and his head almost hits the rim every time he dunks. That's exciting!

Buddy Hield is just a shooter. That's it. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren't we guilty of dismissing Hield for being 'just a shooter' without thinking about how much 'just a shooter' could benefit this team?

The Celtics were so bad from distance last year that every article you've read about them this offseason leads with that reminder. They were so abysmal that writers feel it's their civic duty to remind you of this factoid. I'll chip in; For reference, this past post season according to NBA.com over 37% of all Celtics field goal attempts came from three point land.. they converted 27.5% of them. Diving into the details, somehow, only makes things worse: 26.5% of all field goal attempts were three point shots that were deemed either "open" (defender 4-6 feet from shooter) or "wide open (6+ feet), and they converted 27.4% of them. open shots! The Hawks weren't just daring the team to shoot, they were laughing each time they did. They could afford to pack the paint - limiting Isaiah Thomas' penetration - and live with the results.

That's not an outlier either. Throughout the season the Celtics' overall success ran parallel to how well they were shooting from distance. Some combination of Brad Stevens' offense and the opposing teams willingness to let them shoot resulted in the Celtics getting an uncanny amount of open three point attempts - when they hit them at league average level they'd win, when they didn't, they'd lose. Throughout the Hawks series fans constantly asked "But what if Avery Bradley was healthy", but I'm not so sure they weren't really asking "What if this team had another league average shooter."

Which brings us back to Hield. Whom, anyone whose watched more than 30 seconds of tape knows, is really, really, really good at two things: Shooting, and moving to get himself open. That last part shouldn't be overlooked. Hield isn't just always thinking about taking his next long distance shot, he's constantly working to find a way to get it off.

It's easy to see him fitting in, mostly because it's exactly how Avery Bradley has become an above average offensive weapon: Hield possesses the skills to execute plays that are run for him, as well as the ability to work off the ball to get himself into good catch and shoot situations. Bradley's really good at this, but clearly Hield's range and ability to shoot off the dribble makes him that much more equipped for the role*.

Seriously though, take a look at this Bradley highlight and imagine Buddy in the same role.

Defensively is where Hield gets knocked. But there seems to be enough out there to believe that he could get a lot better. From a physical perspective, while Hield might only be 6'5 his wingpsan comes in at 6'9 - which is about the same as more traditional small forwards like Jae Crowder and Chandler Parsons (and is about 2 inches longer than Avery's). While he, like pretty much every other player in this league, would struggle against the league's most elite small forwards; it does seem like he has the frame to log some minutes at the small forward position.

Also, there's a growing camp of really smart basketball people who seem to think that Buddy is already a much defender than he's given credit for. Here's the internet's Kevin O'Connor on Hield's defense:

3. Hield is a better defender than he gets credit for.

Hield regressed on defense significantly as a senior, but that's only because he was actually pretty good as a sophomore and junior. It's possible that had a lot to do with his increased offensive workload. Maybe playing a clearly defined role in the NBA, with less responsibility on offense, would lead to an increased effort on defense. That won't change his physical limitations, but he likely won't be a liability.

To that point, defensive physical tools, on ball defense and shot contesting were all amongst Hield's "strengths" in Draft Express' preseason report of Hield.

The hope, of course, is that Heild's legendary motor could elevate his defensive game further. It'd be far from unprecedented. Here's DraftExpress' 2011 scouting report on Klay Thompson

Thompson's effort level on the defensive end has improved during his time in college, and he shows solid awareness and makes good rotations off the ball, but his lack of quickness is certainly something that can be exploited. His problems can be hid somewhat on good defensive teams, and his apparent effort level and capacity for playing good team defense will certainly be useful, though he'd have a lot of work to do to even become an average NBA defender overall.

Thompson's defensive problems should be equally pronounced at either the shooting guard or small forward positions, and the questions for teams will be how much can they coach him up and whether his offensive strengths do enough to outweigh his defensive shortcomings. His progress as a junior and strong season overall definitely quell those concerns, at least somewhat.
FWIW, and I'll get killed for pointing this out: Thompson's entire scouting report reads eerily similar to Buddy's. Which isn't as much to compare the two as it is to point out that young player's can develop

If you're not a believer in intangibles (despite the drastic year over year improvements he's shown at the college level) and you think he'll never improve, aren't you OK with that? Between Bradley, Smart and Crowder isn't there enough perimeter defense to make up for a league average defender with a unique (to this team) skill set? If he's nothing more than a poor man's JJ Reddick, isn't he able to provide an enormous boost to this team's offense based off it's current roster constrcution?

In conclusion,


* To be clear, he doesn't have to replace Avery - a team can have more than one of these players, especially in a heavy pick and roll offense (or, relax, internet commenters. We know, first team all defense) .