The Los Angeles Lakers had an excellent 2017 NBA Draft that has really set them up well for the future. Assistant general manager and director of scouting Jesse Buss was at the forefront of that and he is a driving force in this year’s draft and much more.
Kyle Kuzma had an outstanding rookie season and Lonzo Ball showed flashes all season, but at the end of the year, it was Josh Hart who really made an impact. The Lakers drafted Hart with the final pick of the first round, 30th overall.
The prevailing thought on him was that he would be a solid 3-and-D player. However, Hart showed signs of being even more than that, especially down the stretch when he scored at least 20 points in each of the last four games of the season.
That didn’t come as a surprise to Buss who saw Hart take his game to another level during a senior season at Villanova, as he told Lakers reporter Mike Trudell:
We’ve scouted Villanova over the last couple of years since they’ve had a lot of prospects coming into the Draft, and Josh was always a big part of what they did, including when they won the national title against North Carolina two years ago. He put his name into the Draft that year and played at the combine, but didn’t like where it appeared he was going to get selected, and decided to go back for his senior year. We felt like he took his game to another level, in terms of being more than just a three and D guy. He did it all for them. He was their engine his senior year.
After helping Villanova win the 2016 National Championship, Hart would increase his scoring, assist, and steal numbers as a senior while also shooting over 40 percent from deep on five attempts per game.
He was named Big East Player of the Year, was a consensus First Team All-American, and a finalist for the Naismith and Wooden Awards.
It is a tribute to Buss and the rest of the Lakers scouting department that they saw so much in Hart, and so far he has proven to be one of the pillars of this rebuild. With two more picks in this year’s draft, the Lakers will once again be hoping to do the same.
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