An unexpected bit of trade news dropped on Wednesday afternoon, when Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Indiana Pacers were unable to reach a contract extension with Buddy Hield, prompting player and team to work together to find a trade for the veteran sharpshooter. It's unclear at this point which teams are interested in Hield, but he should have no shortage of suitors while playing this season on an $18.6 million expiring contract.
Could the Boston Celtics be interested in acquiring Hield? What would a trade between the Pacers and Celtics look like?
The perfect Buddy Hield trade Celtics must offer Pacers
Boston gets: Buddy Hield
Indiana gets: Malcolm Brogdon, 2024 second-round pick, 2026 secoond-round pick
The Celtics love to spread the floor and shoot threes. Spacing is one of the pinnacles of head coach Joe Mazzula's philosophies. Asked early last season what's sustainable and what's lucky, Boston's rookie head coach made his offensive philosophy clear.
“I believe in spacing, ball movement and making the right play,” Mazzulla said, per Jay King of The Athletic.
What better way to do that than by adding one of the best shooters in the NBA? Hield leads the league in threes over the past five seasons, with Steph Curry and Damian Lillard the next players behind him. He also ranked third in three-point percentage among players who shot at least six threes per game last season.
Few teams rely on the long ball more than Boston. The Celtics shot 42.6 threes per game in 2022-23, second-most in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors. But they have two of the best shooters to walk the face of the earth in Curry and Klay Thompson. Golden State shot 38.5% from three, while Boston shot a very solid 37.7% from deep. The Celtics weren't able to sustain that approach in the postseason, however, their attempts per game dropping to 38.4 and accuracy dipping to to 36.4%.
Boston's offense in general got more stale in the playoffs. Hield could add some much-needed improvisation and movement as a screener. Neither Jayson Tatum nor Jaylen Brown are awesome playmakers at this stage of their careers, though Tatum is a much more polished one than Brown. They also don't have many skills that mesh well with each other. Hield does. His gravity could free up many more passing and driving lanes for them to attack.
screen-the-screener —> double drag. first screener (buddy hield) pops above the break to make the tag on the roll impossible.
that's easy money for haliburton-jackson pic.twitter.com/ie19wtVqhZ
— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) February 12, 2022
Hield himself adds some secondary playmaking juice that could be useful to the Celtics, too, especially with Brogon heading back to Indiana in this framework.
What does Buddy Hield do to a defense?
Well, you can rinse-repeat screen-the-screener stuff over & over again
And when he comes off, he's gonna demand 2 a ton; dive will be wide-open pic.twitter.com/ucrzp1cLhd
— Jackson Lloyd (@JacksonLloydNBA) January 5, 2022
And, of course, he could use his movement and gravity to free up shots for himself to bomb away.
Whoever trades for Buddy Hield needs to run a lot of Spain pick and roll with Buddy as the back screener. The Pacers ran it a lot and here the Pacers run Spain leak where Buddy doesn't even set the back screen. The Bulls have a miscommunication and leaves Buddy open for three. pic.twitter.com/BeyV9olQxw
— DanielPM (@BullsNg12) September 21, 2023
Hield could really put defenses in a bind as well, forcing force advantageous switches when the opposition is wary of letting Tatum and Brown turn the corner in ball-screen actions. He'd give Boston's offense a major boost—that's the positive of a potential Hield trade.
The downside is the 30-year-old isn't exactly known for his defense and could get exploited on that end of the floor. While that's a cause for concern, the Celtics still have plenty of stout defenders who should be able to cover for Hield even with former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart now playing elsewhere. If four of Derrick White, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Robert Williams are on the floor, Boston should have enough defense around him to ensure Hield is a net positive.
Indiana, meanwhile, has a logjam for minutes on the perimeter. They already have too many point guards to play in franchise player Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard and TJ McConnell. They're loaded at shooting guard, too, after drafting Bennedict Mathurin last year, adding rookie Ben Sheppard this year and signing Bruce Brown in the offseason. Sheppard seems likely to begin the season on the bench or in the G League, but someone will have to get the short end of the stick on the perimeter even if Mathurin and Brown start next to Haliburton.
It would make sense if that player was Hield. In this scenario, Indiana gets some second-round picks for Hield, good business considering he seems primed to leave the team in free agency next summer.
The Pacers don't really need Brogdon and could offload him to another team for more picks or let him use this season as a redshirt to get healthy. Remember, he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this offseason, but the team backed out last-minute due to worries about Brogdon's health. His return to Indiana to get healthy while playing a smaller role could ultimately be the best thing for everybody.
Bottom line: Buddy Hield is one of basketball's best shooters and the Celtics are one of the teams most reliant on the three-ball. A trade could make sense for both sides. Hield's status will be worth watching as the season is about to commence.