San Antonio Spurs, Mar 10, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Josh Hart (3) reacts after three-point shot against Seton Hall Pirates during the Big East Conference Tournament Semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs recently worked out Villanova’s Josh Hart. Should they select him in the 2017 NBA Draft?
The San Antonio Spurs own picks 29 and 59 in the 2017 NBA Draft, and while they previously used these selections to draft-and-stash players, sometimes these have been used on those that can impact the current roster. Dejounte Murray is the most recent example, as the Spurs drafted him with the No. 29 pick in 2016.
In the lead-up to the Draft, teams workout handfuls of prospects, including San Antonio. One player they worked out is Villanova’s Josh Hart, according to Michael Rehome of News4SanAntonio.com.
Hart had a storied career with the Wildcats. College basketball fans will remember as a “winner,” being part of the memorable 2016 NCAA Championship team. There’s more to him than that, however, and he should be a target of the Spurs.
Feb 7, 2017; Villanova, PA, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Josh Hart (3) against the Georgetown Hoyas during the first half at The Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Sometimes, it’s difficult to find a guard that’s willing to be gritty under the basket in the NBA. It’s usually full of players above 6-foot-8. Based on what Hart showed in college, that might not matter.
Hart’s 6-foot-5 size doesn’t scream elite rebounder, but for his position, he looked like it for the past four years. He averaged 6.8 in the 2016 National Championship season, and kept that pace up in 2017, with 6.4. Whether it keeps up in the NBA remains to be seen, especially with bigger and stronger players under the basket. Chris Stone of The Step Back dove into how good of a rebounder Hart is:
Hart averaged 7.9 rebounds per 40 minutes in four seasons of college basketball. A good bit of that was simply his willingness to attack the glass from the perimeter, but he also showed the strength and awareness necessary to box-out bigger players.
Gregg Popovich has always rostered scrappy players like Bruce Bowen and Jonathon Simmons. Hart fits the bill as the latest one for not only rebounding, but what he can do on the defensive end.
Feb 7, 2017; Villanova, PA, USA; Georgetown Hoyas guard Jagan Mosely (4) loses his footing against Villanova Wildcats guard Josh Hart (3) during the first half at The Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
2. Defensive Potential
The focus of scouting Josh Hart will be his outside shot. However, he can still go at it on the defensive side of the ball.
Hart stands at 6-foot-5, which isn’t perfect for a shooting guard, but likely just enough for covering players at his position. His 6-foot-8 wingspan worked wonders in college, averaging just over 1 steal per game, including 1.6 in the 2016-17 season. It led to the Villanova standout winning a share of the Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Hart’s athleticism, as NBADraft.net notes, will work in his favor, on the defensive end, too. He was able to keep up with the quickest of guards in the nation, and should put that to the test in the NBA, at the wing spot:
“…and will be able to keep up with more guards than one’s he’s outmatched against … Hart is a competitor, and was an elite defensive guard in college … Averaged 1.6 steals per game in route to a share of the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year award … Josh also tested pretty well as an athlete last year at the combine … A 38.5’’ max vertical was one of his more impressive stats…”
Drafting Hart would allow Popovich to potentially use him in late-game situations, being able to cover the opposition’s shooter and squaring up himself to knock down a shot. He would work near the end of the bench and be a serviceable two-way player for the franchise.
Mar 11, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Villanova Wildcats guard Josh Hart (3) watches his shot during the first half of the Big East Conference Tournament final game against the Creighton Bluejays at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
While Josh Hart is a capable two-way player, his shooting will be what teams eye. The San Antonio Spurs, who need an extra shooter off the bench, would make for an even better fit for the former Wildcat.
The collegiate shooting numbers for Hart are difficult to ignore. He never shot below 50 percent in four seasons, all of which had him play 30-plus games and average 20-plus minutes, so there was never a small sample size for his game in school.
What did improve, was Hart’s perimeter game. He started at just 31 percent from three-point range the 2013-14 season, but brought that number to 46 percent one year later.
By Hart’s senior season, he was still shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. He also brought his points per game average to 18.7, a career-high, and reeled in the Big East Player of the Year Award.
This shooting would be huge off the bench. If it translates to what Hart did in college, it could even earn him some spot starts, especially if there’s an injury to Danny Green. That also ties to the Silver Spring, MD native being able to work on the defensive end, before going any further than the eighth or ninth man.