Much to my excitement, the Portland Trail Blazers made a trade to the New Orleans Pelicans around the trade deadline to ship out CJ McCollum for Josh Hart and other pieces. I’ve become a fan of Josh Hart’s ever-improving game when he posted a 20 point, 17 rebound game versus the Rockets last year. If you’re not named Russell Westbrook, you don’t see that rebounding production out of the guard spot. So what can Blazers fans expect out of Hart in his tenure with the team? Let’s find out!
What Can’t He Do?
Josh Hart’s draft profile had him listed as a “jack of all trades, master of none,” and I can see that Hart is trying to turn it into a “master of all.” This year alone, he’s increased his assists per game (2.3 to 4.1), and taken more shots (7.3 to 9.8), two stats that typically don’t increase together. He’s also improved his two-point field goal percentage, averaging a career-high 59.7% from the two-point range, which would put him 13th behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. Jordan Poole would be the closest guard at 56.4%.
Out of 40 players averaging more rebounds per game this year than Hart (7.1), only ten players are averaging more assists (4.1) than him. You may know some of those players, like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Luka Dončić, and Nikola Jokić. Hart is also in the top 40 for effective field goal percentage, a stat used to calculate a player’s actual efficiency based on the fact a three-point field goal is worth more than a two.
Another note on his draft profile is that he is extremely mature and can provide a high work ethic and elevate other players. As Isiah Thomas once said, “the secret to basketball is that it’s not about basketball.” Players like Hart will create a championship-level atmosphere. Right before Hart was traded to the Blazers, he had a great quote about his different level of play “A lot of people say they want to win, but they don’t want to do the dirty work. They don’t want to crack back and get rebounds, play defense. If you really want to win, you’re going to do those things. You can tell who wants to win by what they do on the court.”
A Solid Bench Player to a Triple-Double Machine
Projecting the floor and the ceiling with Josh Hart is a tricky task. It took me a solid three days to figure out how to even approach a career like Hart’s and project it accurately. Not many 6’5″ guards crack the seven-rebound mark for their careers. Only five guards averaged over seven rebounds for their career (Tom Gola, Oscar Robertson, Jerry Sloan, Russell Westbrook, and Magic Johnson). Although Hart’s current numbers are highly similar to Jerry Sloan’s, the game of basketball back in the 60s looked like how the YMCA does now in the 60-year-old and above league. I cannot in good conscience compare a current NBA player to that long ago.
Wilson Chandler, SG/SF/PF
Career Stats: 14 years, 12.5ppg, 5.3reb, 0.7apg – 44.3FG% / 34.1FG3% / 77.0 FT%
Best Five Years: 2009-2013 (NYK, DEN): 14.5ppg, 5.4reb, 1.9apg – 45.2FG% / 33.6FG3% / 80.1 FT%
Yes, I know Josh Hart isn’t 6’8″ like Chandler, but as I mentioned, no recent guard rebounds like him with the same shooting ability. The Knicks drafted Wilson Chandler in the first round to be a complementary player to then-superstar Carmelo Anthony. Chandler’s ability to play off the ball and score efficiently inside and outside led him to be a part of the blockbuster trade that sent both himself and Melo to the Nuggets. Chandler was a consistent player, only averaging under 10 points per game one time in ten years (during a lockout-shortened season in the 2011-2012 season where he was injured).
Hart’s overall game translates to a similar career to Chandler’s at worst. However, while Chandler’s complimentary playstyle suited Melo’s, Hart’s already a better passer than Chandler, so unless he takes the back seat on the assists to focus more on scoring or gets hurt, I don’t see Hart as a complementary player, instead, the first option.
Fat Lever, PG/SG
Career Stats: 11 years, 13.9ppg, 6.0reb, 6.2apg – 44.7FG% / 31.0FG3% / 77.1 FT%
Best Five Years: 1986-1990 (DEN): 17.9ppg, 8.2reb, 7.5apg – 45.8FG% / 30.9FG3% / 78.1 FT%
Lafayette “Fat” Lever is best known for his time with the Denver Nuggets. This 6’3″ point guard possessed the same tenacity as Josh Hart does on doing the dirty work of gobbling up the rebounds for his team. Lever was the leading rebounder on the Nuggets team for a couple of seasons, peaking at 9.3rpg in the 1989-1990 season. He was also a top-flight defender, receiving a spot on the 1987-1988 All-Defensive team, averaging a career-high 2.7 steals per game that season. It’s worth noting Lever’s ability to scoop up triple-doubles with that rebounding ability, once averaging 17/11/10 during the Western Conference Semifinals versus the Utah Jazz in 1985.
What makes this Hart’s ceiling is that he’s shown the ability and willingness to pass the ball more, seeing an uptick from 2.3apg to 4.1apg this year. In addition, he can parlay his ability to rebound into the passing game with accurate outlet dimes to streaking players like Simons and Lillard. As noted by a 17 rebound performance earlier in his career, the rebounding is already there. It’s a high ceiling, but not many guards have the abilities of Josh Hart that aren’t stars in the league today.
There’s room for insane potential with Josh Hart. He’s a great shooter, has a high basketball and mental IQ, and has proven he can add to his game. Hart has a wide range of where he wants to go with his career, whether focusing on his shooting to get the points per game up or becoming that Swiss Army Knife that can be plugged in and asked to do whatever the team needs. No matter what, to win a championship or at the very least be a successful team in this league, you need a player like Josh Hart.