Every team with big aspirations needs high-level role players that can step up and make big plays when they need them. It appears the Los Angeles Lakers have found one in Josh Hart, who they selected with the No. 30 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
As an NCAA champion with Villanova, the Lakers hoped that Hart’s extensive college experience would allow him to be more NBA-ready than younger players like Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. After a solid rookie season, Hart was determined to prove himself for the 2018-19 NBA season and got things off to a great start when he was named the Las Vegas Summer League Most Valuable Player.
Not only was Hart’s on-court production critical for that team but he also assumed a leadership role. Hart’s defensive intensity contributed in a game the Summer League team played in which they would count the number of consecutive defensive stops they could get.
As the regular season began, the Lakers saw Hart — who shot 40% from the three-point line as a rookie — as a key reason why they could get away with not targeting shooters in free agency. Unfortunately, after a start that was on-par with the shooting that Hart displayed as a rookie and during Summer League, lingering knee issues ultimately sank his sophomore season.
In 2019, Hart wasn’t able to get his legs into his shot and his percentages plummeted. As the Lakers were slammed by one stroke of misfortune after another, Hart valiantly attempted to fight through his knee issues, but ultimately saw his season cut short when it was determined that surgery would be the best option.
Highlight Of The 2018-19 Lakers Season
Hart overpowers De’Aaron Fox to get the bucket.
When healthy, there’s a lot to like about Hart. He can shoot efficiently from behind the arc and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He tends to jump off the wrong foot when finishing, but his body control and physical strength allow him to finish through contact.
Hart is also an intriguing defender. His lateral quickness isn’t great, which makes it difficult for him to cover particularly quick perimeter players. On the flip side, Hart’s strength allows him to battle much bigger players in the post and hold his own, which allows the Lakers to play small ball when the opportunity presents itself.
On a contract that pays him just over $5 million total over the next two seasons, Hart is an excellent value for the Lakers and should continue to improve if he can get past his knee issues. His ceiling is likely lower than Ball, Kuzma, or Brandon Ingram, but Hart is still a valuable piece — especially when his contract is factored in. Hart’s name is likely to pop up in trade rumors, but he’s an excellent fit alongside LeBron James, so it would be surprising to see him dealt unless it’s in a package for an All-Star player.