New Orleans Pelicans: Buddy Hield must find a rhythm to return to form

The New Orleans Pelicans’ sharpshooting rookie Buddy Hield has been anything but a sharp shooter early on. The answer to his struggles lies within the minds of two shooting legends.

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is J.J. Redick’s podcast over at The Vertical. I won’t fool anybody into thinking I was ever a “shooter” myself, but I have been fascinated by the art form since I was a kid. Listening to him talk about his craft is a phenomenal experience. It’s something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about throughout this New Orleans Pelicans season.

Shooting rolls athleticism, fundamentals, repetition, rhythm and confidence all into one. Great shooters replicate their shot at a 40% – 45% clip beyond 23 feet, all for a stretch of 82 games. It’s a delicate formula that can be affected by a thousand different variables.

Thinking about Buddy Hield’s struggles so far this season, I dug up a recent episode of the Vertical with J.J. Redick to try and understand what a shooter of his caliber does to get out of a slump. In the episode I am referring to, the Clippers’ shooting guard invited listeners to send him questions.

One of the questions J.J. received was, “where did your shot go?” (…Twitter)

J.J. responded by recalling his fifth year in Orlando. He started the season 3 for 25 over his first 10 games. Similarly, Buddy Hield is now 9 for 45 in his first 8 games.

Let’s look past the volume differences, and the fact that Buddy is 23 and in his first year, while J.J. was 26 and in the fifth year of his career.

First and foremost, Redick points to sample size. I wanted to take a look at what Hield’s season extrapolated out would look like in terms of rookie seasons where a guard averages over 20 minutes and 4.0 3PA a game. This looks laughably bad for last year’s John Wooden Award Winner. But as Redick eluded to, sample size is key.

If you sort those stats based on 3PA, you see Buddy is averaging 9.5 3PA per 36, 2.6 more than anybody on this list. (Shooters gonna shoot, right?)

To give you some perspective, if Buddy continues at this pace he would have an unprecedentedly poor season. In this next chart I took players per 36 minutes averaging over 9.0 3PA that averaged over 20 minutes played. No active player shooting at Buddy’s rate has ever averaged anything less than 36%!

J.J. continues by drawing a quote from Ray Allen:

“Whether I am in a shooting slump, or I’m shooting great… My routine doesn’t change. If the routine doesn’t change, you can’t blame the routine.”

Despite Redick’s tough start, he finished the season with a 3P% above 40%. He understood the value in routine. Night in and night out; in a slump or “unconscious,” shooters rely on that. Their confidence and rhythm is built on it.

Smart basketball minds have found that 3P% is one of the most translatable skills for players making the leap from college to the NBA. And just as a reminder, Buddy shot 45.7% from the 3-point line his senior season at Oklahoma. There is no reason to believe he won’t be able to find his range, it’s just a matter of when.

I’m not in Buddy’s head, nor am I at the practice facility, but simply thinking that he can throw up a few more shots after practice is not an accurate depiction of a shooters mindset.

Simply put, one of the most important things a shooter can develop is a routine. To think that a shooter can be immersed into the vastly different routine that the NBA’s grueling 82-game season demands is often times unrealistic.

Consistently great shooting requires repetition; requires rhythm, requires confidence. There’s nothing wrong with Buddy’s shot. Just give him some time to develop his nightly routine, and the accuracy will follow.

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