There were high hopes for Buddy Hield when he was acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers prior to the trade deadline in February. After all, this was a guy who fans in Philly had been pining after for years given his ability to space the floor, and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey even went as far as to say that Hield was the best player moved at the deadline.

“I feel like we got the best player at the trade deadline that was traded,” Morey said at the time.  “I felt like he gave us exactly what we were looking for, which is he’s one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history. We really like what he adds to the team and we feel like our healthy group, our playoff rotation with Buddy Hield is right there with everyone in the entire league.”

On paper, Hield seemed like an ideal addition for a team looking to improve its roster prior to a playoff push. The problem is, things haven’t quite worked out that way.

Hield was largely underwhelming during the 32 regular season games he played with Philadelphia. After scoring over 20 points in each of his first four games in a Sixers uniform, he failed to reach that mark again for the rest of the campaign -- 28 straight games. During that time, his shooting splits could best be described as inconsistent.

The common chorus throughout Hield’s honeymoon-phase struggles was that he couldn’t be judged properly as a Sixer until he was able to play alongside reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid. After all, it was Embiid’s gravity that was supposedly going to generate ample open opportunities for Hield and fully unlock his potential as a player. That didn't happen when Embiid returned late in the regular season, though.

And then the playoffs came.

In the first two games of Philadelphia’s first round series against the New York Knicks, Hield was a complete non-factor. He looked hesitant and overwhelmed, and he scored just two points on 1-of-5 shooting in 26 minutes in the two games combined. The Sixers were outscored by 19 points during his time on the floor and lost both games.

By the time Game 3 rolled out, Nick Nurse [wisely] decided to go in a different direction, and he gave the bulk of Hield’s minutes to Cam Payne, who responded with a very positive performance.(11 points on 4-of-7 from the floor).

Hield played less than four minutes in the game, which the Sixers went on to win, and his role moving forward in the series — and with the Sixers — is now a major question mark.

The problem with Hield is that when his shot isn’t falling or he’s not getting open looks, he doesn’t really bring too much else to the floor. He doesn’t excel as a defender, rebounder or passer, and it often becomes difficult to deploy a largely one-dimensional player in postseason situations, especially one who struggles to create his own shot.

Hield never played in the postseason prior to this year, so perhaps it’s been a big of an adjustment. Ideally, he would get an opportunity to work through the situation while trying to find a groove, but rotation minutes are precious in the playoffs and the Sixers don’t have the luxury of waiting around for Hield to get comfortable. A couple of misplaced minutes can swing a series.

Sometimes, difficult decisions need to be made — this is something Nurse addressed after Game 3.

“I think that it’s obviously not easy for him,” Nurse said of Hield, via Sixers Wire. “I’ve said to you guys I really like him. He loves to play. It’s killing him not to be out there, etc. and that is the conversation. I gotta say to him ‘Listen, I have to—my job is to make decisions that’s best for the team.’”

Right now, it seems like the best decision for the team is keeping Hield on the bench while allocating his minutes to the likes of Payne and De’Anthony Melton (if he’s healthy after a long layoff). Or they could even give Ricky Council Jr. a look.

Ultimately, the Sixers will also have to make a decision regarding Hield’s long-term future with the team. Hield will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the Sixers will have to decide if they want to bring him back. Given his performance as a member of the team thus far, it seems like allowing him to walk might be the better decision.

If Hield’s run with the Sixers this season has been the trial period for a potentially lengthy and expensive subscription, I certainly wouldn’t want to subscribe.

Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on X @therealmikekb.

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