After just two seasons with the LA Lakers, Josh Hart is on the move to New Orleans as a part of a massive trade that sends Anthony Davis to Los Angeles. In return, New Orleans gets Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first round draft picks including the #4 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
If you’re thinking that’s a lot, IT IS. To give up that much you’d have to think that the Lakers have assurances from Anthony Davis that he’ll resign with the Lakers instead of entering free agency after next season. The Lakers also gave up most of their young core with the exception of Kyle Kuzma, who will stay with LeBron and Davis in LA.
As for Hart, there are still a number of question marks around the now officially rebuilding Pelicans. Hart’s contract is certainly the most attractive of the three incoming Lakers, but he’s also coming off an injury that shut him down to end last season. He’ll have plenty to prove on his new team, but what his opportunity will be is very much up in the air.
Hart has two big things in his corner right now: versatile defense and a favorable contract. He can guard 1-4, and has even held his own against a few smaller bodied 5’s in his two years in Los Angeles. And his contract still has another year guaranteed under $2M and extends out to the 2022 season at about a third the cost of the other players in the trade, Ingram and Ball.
That said, there will be a number of unknowns in New Orleans that could be obstacles that Hart will need to overcome. First are the incumbant guards already in New Orleans. With Lonzo Ball also coming over in the trade, it’s very possible that the Pelicans decide to start both Ball and their current PG Jrue Holiday in the backcourt. Then Hart would have to find his place in the depth chart among last season’s starting shooting guard E’Twaun Moore (owed $8.6M next season) and backup Dairis Bertans (also signed through 2020). Expiring contracts at the position include Ian Clark and former Big East star Trevon Bluiett, who just finished up a two way contract with the Pelicans.
But the biggest threat to Hart’s playing time in the short term could be the incoming rookies from the NBA Draft. New Orleans has the 1st and 4th overall picks, along with two second rounders (39th and 57th). The #1 pick will be Zion Williamson, and he won’t have much of an effect on Hart’s playing time. But the picks projected at #4 are very much players that could be expected to start at SG for New Orleans. Those prospects include Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, and Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland. Culver and Hunter are very much the same mold as Hart, while Garland projects more as a point guard but could still play at the 2. Hart will not only have to beat out their talent, but also the notion the coaching staff has that whoever they pick will be “their guy”, while Hart was just the last piece in the Anthony Davis trade.
The bottom line, Hart is likely going to have to earn his playing time by outshining higher draft picks. It’s nothing new, the former Wildcat has been doing that his entire basketball career. The fact that the Pelicans are rebuilding probably works in his favor. They’ll be more interested in seeing what they have in the young, developing players rather than the more veteran players on the team. Either way, Villanova fans will stand firmly behind one of the greatest Wildcats of All-Time, and we wish the best of luck to Hart as he enters his third season in the league.