Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Joh Hart battled with knee ailments in his second season in the NBA, but he is poised to bounce back this upcoming season.
Remember when Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Josh Hart won the Summer League MVP before the start of the 2018-19 season? I surely do and it seems like an entirety ago, despite being only a year ago. It’s easy to forget about it because of the way Hart’s sophomore campaign went.
The world was expected of Hart who averaged 24.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in the Summer League. He was an easy choice for the award as he led the summer in scoring.
Not only did he have a great summer, his strong play to end his rookie season made people believers. Over the last four games, he averaged 23.8 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Last season began the way many believed Josh Hart would play. Hart began his second year with a bang, averaging 12.1 points and four rebounds over the first 11 games. During the stretch, Hart was playing his usual stellar defense and shooting 40 percent from 3-point distance.
As the season went on Hart looked more and more out of sync. His role appeared to change from an aggressive backup guard to a catch-and-shoot guy. Over the last 26 games, he averaged only 5.1 points on 35 percent from the field.
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The gritty guard was dealing with right knee tendinitis and played through it. Hart missed two games in late February, before being eventually shut down for the final 11 games of the year. He ended his season averaging 7.8 points and 3.7 rebounds. It’s safe to say he underachieved.
To Hart’s credit, he displayed toughness knowing that his team was missing bodies throughout the season. The Lakers season was haunted by injuries from key players to the last guy on the roster.
LeBron James missed 27 games (groin), Lonzo Ball missed 35 games (ankle), Brandon Ingram was out for 30 contests (blood clot), and Rajon Rondo missed 36 games mainly due to a hand injury. Every single player on the roster missed at least 12 contests with the exception of JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Hart’s right knee surgery, which took place on March 29, is expected to keep him for 12 weeks. He is currently rehabbing it and it appears he will certainly be ready to go by training camp in late September.
Entering his third season, I expect Hart to have a different approach. The coaching change can be something Hart uses to his benefit. Coach Frank Vogel loves tough and gritty players like Hart. Hart’s teammate Lance Stephenson had the best season of his career under Vogel in Indiana (2013-14). That year Stephenson averaged 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds and was nearly an All-Star.
Josh Hart can take on a similar role to Stephenson who is a jack-of-all-trades guard. Both have a similar build, can defend multiple positions, and can handle the ball a bit. Although, Hart is a better shooter than Stephenson (32% 3-point) ever was.
Look for Josh Hart to have a strong year in 2019-20. If healthy Hart will provide quite the spark on both ends for the Lakers. Don’t be surprised if he is one of the best backup guards in the league.