One thing that makes Josh Hart super valuable to the Los Angeles Lakers is his understanding of both his strengths and limitations and how they can be utilized or mitigated for the betterment of the team.
Operating with that understanding, Hart seems to recognize the places where he could make himself more generally valuable, but also more useful to the Lakers specifically.
This, via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk:
Josh Hart has been working on his shooting, defensive quickness and has placed a big emphasis on his dribbling this offseason. He wants to “dominate” in summer league action next month. “I was a solid defender this year but next year being able to guard smaller, quicker guys, those types of things are the main emphasis for me this summer,” said Hart, who co-hosted 200 youth from local nonprofits to watch a screening of “Uncle Drew” along with LA Chargers defensive end Isaac Rochell.
“… I want to dominate [at summer league but] that doesn’t mean I have to go out there and score 30 points every time. I can go out there and have 15 points, 10 rebounds and five or six assists and some steals. It is not just about scoring but going out there and showing the team and front office that I am improving and capable of taking the next step.”
Let’s go skill-by-skill.
Hart finished the season shooting just under 40 percent from three. More notable, though, is how he fared after the all-star break. His percentage dipped from .397 to .393, but it did so on twice as many 3-point attempts per game (2.5 to 5.6). If that efficiency can continue (or even improve) over the course of an entire season, Hart would immediately become one of the league’s more valuable young role players.
Defensively, Hart was fun to watch last season. Bigger players thinking they could take him down to the post often found out the Hart way he doesn’t get moved easily. Him noting that he could still improve on that side of the ball and understanding specifically what might need to get done is great to see.
Finally, it’ll be interesting to see what Hart has in mind regarding improving his ball-handling. When most people think of creators off the dribble, images of guys like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, etc., crossing people over probably pop up in their heads. Hart, who doesn’t have that kind of rhythm or talent on the ball, will probably be more focused on attacking closeouts and perhaps a dribble beyond that to really put defenses in a bind.
Regarding summer league, the thing you always look for from second-year players coming off rookie seasons as solid as Hart is that they convincingly look too good to get anything from playing against that competition. He seems to understand where to place expectations heading in, which brings me to my larger overriding point: Hart has a great head on his shoulders. Yes, in theory, it’s a great idea for NBA players to think themselves capable of becoming superstars. It’s arguably better, though, when role players recognize their ceiling early on and focus on fitting in with the aspects of their game that translate to team success.
Even while talking about “dominating” summer league, Hart seems to be talking more about this concept rather than taking over the game with counting stats. Triple-doubles in meaningless exhibition games this summer aren’t nearly as important as the skillset we all hope translates to more wins for the Lakers when games count next year.