The Los Angeles Lakers won the 2017 NBA draft. Landing three players who can contribute from day one isn’t easy but somehow the Lakers scouting department managed to do so. Lonzo Ball, the most well known of the three had a good year and is seen as the future at point guard. Kyle Kuzma is an offensive machine, who most fans had never even heard of on draft night. Then we come to the hidden gem of the bunch. A National Champion at Villanova, Josh Hart was a key contributor all over the court last season. Hart is a do it all player, something all teams are looking for. This season he has a chance to announce himself on the big stage, playing a key role for a new look Lakers team.
Los Angeles Lakers Young Core: The Value of Josh Hart
Continue to stuff the stat-sheet
One of the best aspects of Hart’s game is his ability to impact the game all over the court. Whether he’s scoring, rebounding or defending with intensity, Hart always plays a key role. A coaches dream, he proved last season that he’s more than just a 3-and-D player. Head coach Luke Walton is a big fan.
“He’s one of our best finishers, he’s one of our best rebounders, he can push it in transition,” Walton told Matthew Moreno of Lakers Nation. “Saying he’s a three-and-d guy is limiting his potential.”
Luke Walton on Josh Hart: "He's done a nice job of figuring out what the NBA game is about. I think he's another one of these guys that's going to have a big offseason. … He's done a great job of consistently working."
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) April 9, 2018
Hart was successful last season due to a number of reasons. Walton played a key role, with the second-year head coach remaining patient and slowly working Hart into the rotation. Hart went from playing 2.4 minutes per game in November to 17 per game in April. Hart’s strong mentality and willingness to wait for his turn was a key reason as to why he finished the season so strong. Only starting on 23 occasions, Hart still tallied eight double-doubles. Including a small stretch where three of those double-doubles came in consecutive games.
The starting shooting guard spot
Last season, the Lakers starting shooting guard was Mr. Consistent. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope isn’t a spectacular player, but he plays his role really well. Since being drafted in 2013, Caldwell-Pope’s career low in games played in a season is 74. Which is amazing in today’s NBA.
A quality defender, Caldwell-Pope also provides good scoring and rebounding. This and Caldwell-Pope sharing the same agent as LeBron James is why the Lakers brought him back. Signing a one-year, $12 million contract, Caldwell-Pope is currently the projected starter. However, Hart’s off-season work and Summer League form have led to some questioning who could start, including Magic Johnson.
Before the mung bean egg ad took over the call, Magic said a lot of interesting things. One of them: "Look at Josh Hart. He’s playing unbelievable in Las Vegas. Some guys better watch out because he’s pushing to start."
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) July 13, 2018
Caldwell-Pope was a good mentor for Hart last season, even with his off-court issues. It’s likely we see him start game one of the new season, but Hart is closing in. No matter who ends up starting, competition for starting places is always a good thing.
Patience is key
Josh Hart was patient last season and he will need to be so again this year. This is a new team, with a new face. If you’re one of the young guys, this is the prove yourself year after LeBron James’ arrival. Hart is in the same boat as the rest of the young guys, performing and winning is all that matters from here on in. Hart has the talent and drives to become a starting quality guard in the NBA. This isn’t a make or break year, but producing at the highest level will be the ultimate test for a young player looking to become more than just another bench guy.
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