In the second round of an NBA Draft, general managers no longer target needs, or at least they should avoid it at all costs. The hope is simply to find an actual NBA player, one that can stick in the league. Finding one that provides plus production, as Malcolm Brogdon did for the Milwaukee Bucks this season, would be nice, but the possibility is slim. Brogdon was my favorite for the Pelicans in the second round of the 2016 draft and a player of similar makeup is my target again this year.
An NBA wing with size, tenacity, defensive grit, and a championship pedigree. Sounds like a good addition for the New Orleans Pelicans with the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft? Let me introduce you to Villanova’s Josh Hart.
Hart compares favorably to the Pelicans lottery pick last year, Buddy Hield. While not a flamethrower beyond the arc, Josh Hart measures up almost precisely in build with both players standing 6’5” and weighing in around 210 pound at the NBA combine. Of course, last year Buddy was turning in a shooting performance of a lifetime and driving himself into the lottery as a senior thanks to a historically weak draft class. Meanwhile Hart, also racking in the accolades, remains projected in the middle of the second round by most sources. Draft Express currently slots Hart 45th in their most recent mock draft.
Marc Whittington of Liberty Ballers asked this same question much earlier in the year on the draft prospects of Hart compared to Hield. While Buddy Hield became a more efficient scorer as his collegiate career progressed, Hart, who was already efficient, got better at the rest of the game. Josh Hart doesn’t have that one elite talent that jumps off the screen like Buddy Hield did at Oklahoma. He just does all the little things.
That’s exactly what these Pelicans need.
As Whittington mentions toward the end of his profile, Hart makes the correct read in unspectacular fashion consistently. He’s a decent creator off the dribble but lacks both the wiggle and first step to get by faster perimeter defenders. From behind the arc, he’s good but not spectacular. His Draft Express profile has identical sentences to Brogdon’s last year.
Off the bounce, Hart lacks a degree of shiftiness and explosiveness, making it difficult for him to turn the corner at times already at the college level, but he is a highly capable straight driver who is quick to get downhill. (Hart Scouting Report)
Off the bounce, Brodgon lacks a degree of shiftiness and explosiveness, making it difficult for him to turn the corner at times already at the college level. He's figured out how to use his overpowering strength more effectively, though, and proved more opportunistic this season that he did a year ago. (Brogdon Scouting Report)
A terrific offensive rebounder for a guard who moves well off the ball and finds easy shots inside with his hustle and strong feel for the game, Hart does a lot of little things offensively that buoyed his efficiency at the college level and could help him carve out a niche in the NBA, even if he doesn't have one obvious elite level skill. He plays an efficient, low-mistake brand of basketball, but is not particularly dynamic with the ball in his hands and concerns about his shooting mechanics give scouts pause. Despite that, his effort, unselfishness, and ability to execute give him intriguing role-player potential and could serve him well if he can prove himself as a cog against quality competition. His maturity, basketball IQ and work ethic figure to give him a better chance than most at making things work. (Hart Scouting Report)
The challenge for Brogdon moving forward will be carving out a niche offensively at the NBA. He plays an efficient, low-mistake brand of basketball, but his lack of explosiveness and concerns about his shooting mechanics give scouts pause. Despite that, his effort, unselfishness, and ability to execute give him intriguing roleplayer potential and could serve him well if he can prove himself as a cog against quality competition. His maturity, basketball IQ and work ethic figure to give him a better chance than most at making things work. (Brogdon Scouting Report)
Look, when the preeminent NBA scouting website is using the same stock sentences in your profile, maybe you’re doing something right. It’s not crazy to say Brogdon deserves the NBA Rookie of the Year this season and his primary competition, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, were taken in previous drafts. While I’m not saying Josh Hart is a shoe-in to win Rookie of the Year, I am saying he has many similar traits that the trained eye is picking up on.
It’s not that crazy to compare Hart even to a lottery pick from last season, the Pelicans own Buddy Hield. Josh Hart may lack the pizzazz of Hield’s three point barrages but he makes up for it in other ways. He’s already a superior rebounder and facilitator, who takes much better care of the ball while contributing plus defense on the other end of the court. Hart was the sixth man during his sophomore campaign at Villanova, then the leading scorer for the 2016 National Champions, and finished off his career with the number one overall seed while carrying a progressively larger load. Stepping into the Pelicans rotation as a mostly bit player, filling a role not dissimilar to the one Quincy Pondexter did in 2015, is not far off base.
One comparison I left off so far is Whittington’s own, comparing Josh Hart to current Dallas Mavericks wing Wesley Matthews. Both clock in with average 6’8.25” wingspans and stand 6’5”. Matthews, like Hart, was a four year player at Marquette and his draft stock was low enough to necessitate attending the Portsmouth Invitational before the draft.
The fact that Matthews does not stand out as a dynamic threat in any one area and is only a slightly above average run-jump athlete by NBA standards will relegate him to role-player status in the minds of GMs, making his willingness to do the little things that much more important.
Matthews went undrafted and eventually signed on as a free agent with the Utah Jazz. During his eight year career since, he’s started 532 of 592 games, averaged 13.9 points a game, shot 38% behind the arc, and contribued solid team defense. I’m a big fan of upside, but as Whittington notes, Matthews has been one of the ten most productive rookies out of the 2009 draft class despite not even being drafted.
In the second round, don’t draft for need or upside, just find an NBA player that can stick on your roster. Time after time, that guy in the second round is a junior or senior with less than stellar athleticism but does the little things and has a high basketball IQ.
Josh Hart is that man for the New Orleans Pelicans.