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Vibrant Hield bringing 'swagger' to New Orleans

Rookie guard says he will help Pelicans get into playoffs in 2017

POSTED: Jun 24, 2016 8:20 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


All Access Interview: Buddy Hield

Jared Greenberg talks with the number six pick Buddy Hield of the New Orleans Pelicans.

— The good times began to roll in the strangest of places on the strangest of draft nights, in a back room inside Barclays Center, away from the main part of the arena where the selections were being announced.

Buddy Hield was ready to party Thursday night, New Orleans style. Moving from one TV interview to another in what was ordinarily the Nets' practice court, he had a Dixieland band of a smile, bright and full of energy. He had bigger plans.

I'm a worker. I'm a high-energy guy. I'm a leader. I know that there's other leaders on the team, but I can go out there and help them lead too.

– New Orleans Pelicans rookie Buddy Hield

The Pelicans -- his Pelicans -- will be in the 2017 playoffs.

And Hield is going to be one of the reasons why.

He had been in the NBA about an hour, as the sixth pick in the 2016 draft, and already was flashing a veteran's swagger. Assertive with manners, bold as a shooting guard at the University of Oklahoma, emphasis on shooting, it was quickly clear nothing would change as he transitioned to the pros.

2016 NBA Draft: Pick 6

With the 6th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft the New Orleans Pelicans select Buddy Hield.

Hield sees himself as the perfect match for New Orleans' unique, rich vibe, as full of character as the city itself. He doesn't just see himself as a fit with the roster in that way. To the best shooter in the draft, it's like there was no other place to end up. Laissez les bons temps rouler and all that. Let the good times roll.

But, yes, the roster. Anthony Davis. Tyreke Evans. Jrue Holiday. Perhaps Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, both unrestricted free agents on July 1. Hield is expected to be the replacement as the starting shooting guard if Gordon leaves, and maybe even, eventually, if Gordon stays.

The Pelicans were 30-52 last season, 12th in the Western Conference and 11 games out of eighth place and the playoffs amid a torrent of injuries.

It doesn't matter now, though. They will be in the playoffs this season.

Instant Analysis: Pick 6

The guys talk about Buddy Hield going number six overall to the New Orleans Pelicans.

"Yes, sir," Hield said. "No doubt."

With Hield as one of the differences between New Orleans making or missing the postseason.

"Yes, sir," he said. "No doubt. I've got the confidence. I've got the swagger to bring to the team and I love it. It's going to be fun down in New Orleans."

As Hield aims straight for Kia Rookie of the Year.

"That's my goal," he said. "Yes, sir."

The NBA added one of its boldest personalities Thursday night as well as one of its brightest prospects during the most unpredictable first round in many years. Ben Simmons (to the Philadelphia 76ers) and Brandon Ingram (Los Angeles Lakers) went 1-2 as expected and the next five -- Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Dragan Bender (Phoenix Suns), Kris Dunn (Minnesota Timberwolves), Hield, Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets), Marquese Chriss (Sacramento Kings as part of a trade with Phoenix) -- were all predictable with only the specific order to be decided. And Jakob Poeltl to the Toronto Raptors at No. 9 could be seen coming.

Instant Analysis: Pick 6

The guys talk about Buddy Hield going number six overall to the New Orleans Pelicans.

But then surprises started flying. Thon Maker at 10. Georgios Papagiannis at 13. Juan Hernangomez and Guerschon Yabusele at 15 and 16, respectively, much higher than most front offices had expected. Skal Labisierre, in the conversation for the top two at the start of the college season and in recent days still appearing to have a good chance to make the lottery, according to conversations with scouts and executives, fell to 28. Another supposed lottery candidate, Deyonta Davis, tumbled all the way to the second round, 31st overall.

Hield was one of the pieces of stability, going in the expected range and to a team that made sense, with the Pelicans possibly needing a new shooting guard. That he followed it by insisting New Orleans was on a path to solid footing was another match, filled with all the benefits he expects to bring to town.

"Shooting the ball, impacting the game, spreading the floor, keeping defenses honest," Hield said. "I'm a worker. I'm a high-energy guy. I'm a leader. I know that there's other leaders on the team, but I can go out there and help them lead too. I'll let them know I'm not shy because I'm a rookie coming in. I'm not shy to take over. I've always been in that role my whole life. But I'm willing to learn and listen and learn from coach (Alvin) Gentry. It's going to be a fun situation for me and I can't wait."

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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