Over the last few weeks the final of the Los Angeles Lakers’ three first-round picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Josh Hart, has become one of the favorites of both the fans, and head coach Luke Walton.
Hart, the 30th pick this year, has become a trusted part of the rotation, quickly showing himself to be one of the team’s best defenders. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering Hart was Big East Defensive Player of the Year and won a National Championship in his four years at Villanova.
That long college career is something Hart has in common with another promising Lakers rookie in Kyle Kuzma, and something that has served him well.
“He seems not to be afraid of anything and I think that’s because he played in huge games,” Luke Walton said after shootaround on Wednesday. “He won a national championship, played in front of 80,000 people. He’s been great for us lately.”
The popular thing to do in the draft these days is to look at those who’ve played only one year in college as they are younger and assumed to have more potential to grow. Players like Hart, Kuzma, or even Utah’s Donovan Mitchell all played multiple years and are benefitting because of it.
Walton and the Lakers front office knew ahead of time that Hart would likely be more ready than the average rookie, but he still had to earn his rotation spot. “We assumed by the interview we had with him, talking to him and watching tape on him, that he’d more likely be ready to play in NBA games than most rookies,” Walton said.
“But, still, when we drafted him, we got KCP and had JC, so we knew he was down on the depth chart going into training camp. He’s earned his role right now.”
Hart has shown himself to be a reliable defender and shooter, knocking down 39.4 percent from deep in the month of December, and gladly taking on the toughest defensive assignment on a nightly basis.
Playing four years and having the college experience he did has prepared Hart to be ready quicker than most, and now the Lakers have another late-round draft gem on their hands.
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