This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's March 28 MLB Preview Issue. Subscribe today!
Buddy Hield captured the national spotlight -- and potentially clinched the Wooden Award -- with a 46-8-7 effort against Kansas on Jan. 4. And he hasn't let up since. So what's his NBA ceiling? We asked a pro scout for his breakdown, then had our analysts -- and the senior guard himself -- weigh in.
The best thing Hield does is shoot the ball, and he has great range.1 He's also not afraid to take big shots-and he makes them.2 But I worry about his size. He's listed at 6-4, and that's not great for a 2-guard in the NBA.3 This year he has much more confidence putting the ball on the floor.4 But he's too loose with the ball sometimes.5 Everyone around him raves about how much work he puts in each year, and that work ethic and character will help him at the next level.6 If he'd turned pro after last season, he would have gone somewhere in the 20-40 range. Now he's a top-10 pick.7 He'll wind up being more of a spot-up shooter in the NBA. I think he can be a candidate for sixth man of the year and maybe even a starter.8
1. Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider
"Hield is having one of the great 3-point seasons in NCAA history. Since 1994-95, he has the highest percentage beyond the arc (.473) of any major conference player with at least 250 attempts, according to Sports-Reference.com."
2. Fran Fraschilla, ESPN analyst
"Shooting is at an all-time premium, and Buddy's ability to hit contested shots will benefit him against longer and quicker NBA defenders. He has no problem getting into his shooting motion, even when he sees a hard close-out."
"If you put the ball in the hole, it doesn't matter. I've had all different size defenders guarding me, and I've still been able to put up big numbers. Draymond Green, he's like 6-6 or 6-7, and he's banging with 7-footers all night."
4. Jeff Goodman, ESPN Insider
"He was far more one-dimensional before this year. It's just confidence -- he always had the ability to do it. He's very difficult to guard now because he's not just a shooter anymore."
"I'm aware of that. I think I'm committing 2.9 [turnovers] per game, so I feel like I can do a better job. It's hard not to turn the ball over when you have it in your hands so much, especially in college, where there is so much help defense."
"There's nobody I've seen in recent years who spends more time in the gym than Buddy Hield. It's why he's dramatically improved from his freshman year to his senior year."
"He made the absolute right decision. It's going to pay off financially because teams are going to have an investment in him. If he had gone last year, he might not have made a roster."
"His closest NBA comp is probably [Mavs starter] Wesley Matthews. Of seniors with similar WARP projections, more than half averaged at least 15 minutes per game in their first four NBA seasons."
All stats through March 9.