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NBA Draft 2017 Prospect Breakdown: Josh Hart

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Josh Hart has repeatedly outperformed and outproduced his athletic profile. Can he do so at the professional level?

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Creighton vs Villanova Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s post breaks down Villanova senior Josh Hart.

I love Josh Hart. There, I said it.

I got that out of the way. I confess how much I enjoy watching him play basketball... and how hard it is to evaluate players I love to watch. He went 129-17 in four seasons of college basketball and was the best player on the 2016 National Championship team during his junior season. It is likely that coaches will be begging GM’s to take him while player personnel folks will be passing over him for players with more upside.

Offensive Profile

Hart is a multi-tooled offensive player with no obvious or detrimental flaws. He scored 18.7 points per game as a senior and is efficient from all three levels of the court. He shot over 40% from the three-point line, consistently knock down shots from mid-range and finishes drives at the rim and free-throw line. He does not look to score upon receiving the basketball and finds most of his points through the flow of team offense, hustle plays or absorbing the pressure of having the ball late in offensive possessions. All of these traits strengthen his ability to continue his efficiency as a role player at the professional level.

Hart has not established an ability to use his handle to get by defenders. He is a willing passer with average vision and questionable delivery when finding an open teammate. At the college level, he was outstanding at using his size (6’6, 204) to punish smaller players in the paint. Even with a 6’8+ wingspan, Hart will have few physical advantages at the next level. He takes care of the basketball but his gifts are limited when the ball is in his hands.

Defensive Profile

Hart is a phenomenal team defender who gets everything out of his ability on the defensive end. He is a smart player who forces better athletes into the spots where they are less likely to find success. It is surprising that he does not average more steals (1.6 per game) due to the number of deflections he creates both on-and-off the ball. He plays strong on the defensive end and turns 50/50 situations into 60/40 possessions for his team. His 6.4 rebounds per games is outstanding for his size and position and make it more surprising that he only averages a block every 3 games.

His physical profile and film show his average athleticism for his level of production. This is where NBA teams must have the greatest concern. He switched to defend all positions in college yet he could struggle as a primary defender against most NBA starters. He does not have the lateral speed to stay in front of quicker guards and his size and leaping ability will be a challenge at pressuring ever-lengthening NBA wings. However, if projected to play 20 minutes per game in a rotation, Hart will be a plus team defender who can mostly avoid being a liability when switching to multiple positions

Fit for the Atlanta Hawks

I love Josh Hart. I love the Hawks. For the same reasons. Danny Green was passed on entirely by the NBA Draft and took time to find his way in the league. I think Hart has a similar profile due to both players being perceived as having athletic limitations. I am not sold that Hart is as limited athletically as some scouts suggest. He plays basketball with a rarely found combination of intelligence and passion—while making shots. I do not know a better way to describe what the Hawks organization has become than such a description of Hart. Some will view No. 31 as too high for the Villanova senior but whatever team selects him in the second round will be getting a steal.

Summary

Did I say that I love Josh Hart? Along with Derrick White, Hart is the best chance for Atlanta to find a shooter without significant defensive liabilities in the 2017 NBA Draft. Hart has proven himself as a role player and a star at the college level. He may not be an elite athlete but he knows how to defend his ground. He may not ever make an All-NBA team or appear during All-Star Weekend but he will be the kind of player a coach will depend upon to perform in late-game pressure. In summary, he already plays the game like a guy in the Hawks’ system.