Video Analysis by Julian Applebome. Scouting Report by Matt Williams
Coming off a season that saw him earn a spot on the NCAA All-American Third Team as he helped Villanova to a National Championship before declaring for and withdrawing from the 2016 NBA Draft, Josh Hart figured to play an absolutely critical role for a talented Wildcats squad looking to repeat, despite significant attrition to graduation.
Rising to the occasion, Hart, who finished his career as one of the most decorated players in Villanova basketball history, averaged a sensational 18.7 points per game, while playing terrific individual defense and doing plenty of little things on his way to winning Big East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors and becoming a consensus First Team All-American. He was key to keeping Jay Wright's program in the top five all year and in leading the Wildcats to 31-3 record heading into the NCAA Tournament, where they were upset by a battle tested Wisconsin team in the round of 32.
One of the most productive players in the 2017 senior class, the Washington D.C. native took another step forward as an NBA prospect in his fourth and final year at the college level, all while solidifying his legacy in the college game. Measured at the 2016 NBA Draft Combine, Hart stands 6'5.5 in shoes with a strong 204-pound frame. He has a solid 6'8.5 wingspan, and possesses good size and strength for a wing prospect overall. An average athlete by NBA standards who is perhaps a bit more explosive when he can gather a head of steam than one might expect, the Sidwell Friends School product makes the most of his physical tools by playing with tremendous intensity and smarts on both ends. His competitiveness made him one of the most valuable players in the country this season.
Taking on a larger role in Villanova's offense as a senior, Hart was one of just eleven players in Division I and four in high major conferences to use over 16 possessions per game and score over 1.10 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Functioning as a true first option at the collegiate level for the first time, Hart did most of his damage playing off the ball, but was also often asked to create shots for himself and others out of the pick and roll. There isn't much flash to Hart's game and his calling card offensively at this stage is perhaps more his ability to do a little bit of everything than any one particular element. He's an intelligent, opportunistic scorer who scored in a variety of ways at the college level.
With 63% of his shots coming from the perimeter in the half court over the course of the season, perhaps the biggest development in Hart's game from this time a year ago is the improvement, at least on paper, of his jump shot. Knocking down 40.4% of his 5.1 three-point attempts per game, up from 35.7% a year ago, Hart has improved his mechanics a bit and cleaned up his release to a degree, but still shoots a somewhat labored jump shot that includes a hitch at the top. This limits his ability to make shots off the dribble and raises some concerns about his ability to seamlessly translate his range to the NBA line. Despite the lack of aesthetic appeal, Hart's improvement this year was encouraging and his work ethic leaves some room for optimism in his ability to emerge as a capable spot up threat down the road.
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. He's always been adept at using his strength off the bounce and remains a tremendously opportunistic finishing inside. Shooting 66% around the rim in the half court, Hart has long been one of the better finishing wings in the country, displaying good body control and a knack for drawing contact, allowing him to overcome his lack of freakish explosiveness around the rim. How his aggressiveness initiating contact and ability to finish against length translates to the NBA game remains to be seen, as his lack of creativity and leaping ability limited at times last season, despite his gaudy numbers in close.
Not much of pull-up shooter, with an arm-reliant stroke that he often releases on the way down, Hart made around 33.7% of his off the dribble jumpers this season. His midrange game has never been his calling card due to his lack of great consistency off the bounce and inability to regularly create separation away from the rim in one-on-one situations.
As a passer, Hart proved capable this season, dishing out 3.8 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted compared to 2.5 turnovers. He isn't a dynamic shot creator, but he does a good job moving the ball unselfishly on the perimeter and not trying to do too much off the dribble at this stage in his career.
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.
Something similar can be said about Hart defensively, where he proved to be one of the more capable wings in the college game as a senior. A coach's dream in terms of toughness, Hart lacks great length for his position at the NBA level, but has decent quickness, gets in the passing lanes well, and scrapped and clawed at an impressive level for a player often carrying a significant burden offensively many nights this season.
One of the top seniors in the college game this season, Josh Hart made significant strides in a few key areas while closing the book on his terrific college career. Improving steadily over the last few years, there's room for optimism about Hart at the next level. He may not have tremendous upside, but his maturity and strong base of fundamentals on both ends should be enough to secure him a guaranteed NBA roster spot and show that his game can translate to the next level.
Corey Porter takes a closer look at Villanova wing Josh Hart's performance against previously undefeated Notre Dame.
The 6'5 senior had arguably his best game at the college level on that Sunday afternoon game in Newark broadcasted by CBS, in front of a host of NBA scouts and executives. He finished with a very strong 37 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and just one turnover in 37 minutes, shooting 10-14 from the field and a perfect 14-14 from the free throw line.
Corey Porter is a video analyst for DraftExpress. Follow him on twitter and check out his DraftExpress Video Archive. He will be breaking down the NBA draft in digital format all year long for us.
Josh Hart is one of the best two-way shooting guards in college basketball, bringing a strong defensive and rebounding presence with a solid jump-shot, a high basketball IQ and the ability to play multiple positions and roles depending on what's asked of him on any given night. He spaces the floor effectively and is opportunistic with his ability to create his own shot out of pick and roll and isolation situations, where he finishes very well around the basket. Lacking a degree of size and physical tools from a NBA standpoint, a strong NCAA Tournament run will set up Hart nicely going into his senior campaign.
Named to the Big East's All-Freshmen team in 2014 after a very strong first season, Josh Hart took another step forward as a sophomore, being named Big East Sixth Man of the Year. Now likely to move into the starting lineup with incumbent wings Dylan Ennis and Darrun Hilliard both out of the picture, Hart will look to take the next step on a talented Villanova team vying for their (and his) third straight Big East championship.
Hart does not blow you away with his physical attributes, standing 6-5, with an average 6-7 ½ wingspan, a solid frame, and good, but not incredible athleticism. He's no slouch in that department, but won't get drafted on his upside alone.
Offensively, his biggest calling card as a pro prospect will likely revolve around his perimeter shooting ability, which he has made a great deal of progress with since arriving on campus at Villanova. Once prone to holding the ball too long on his release and often shooting on the way down, Hart has done an excellent job of smoothing out his jumper and finding a higher, more consistent release point and overall repeatable stroke. He still tends to contort his body sideways somewhat, but was absolutely deadly shooting the ball with his feet set as a sophomore, hitting 46% of his 2.7 attempts per game, for a blistering 1.38 points per possession, the seventh best rate in the NCAA among returning draft prospects.
Beyond spacing the floor as a spot-up shooter, Hart also showed some ability to come off screens or make shots off the dribble, but in very small doses. It will be interesting to see how his overall shooting holds up in a bigger role this upcoming season, as he saw a lot of time being defended by much bigger players at the small forward or even the power forward position in stretchy lineups. He only hit 31% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman, and is just a career 67% free throw shooter overall.
Besides his shooting ability, Hart is not a very prolific offensive player, with the rest of his touches coming off running the floor in transition, crashing the offensive glass, and cutting off the ball. He does a great job of getting ahead of the defense and finding easy points in the open court, and is extremely aggressive pursuing loose balls off missed shots.
Hart contributes not only with his effort level, but also with his excellent basketball IQ. He makes the extra pass frequently and willingly, either moving the ball along on the perimeter, pushing it forward in transition, or finding his big men in post-entry situations. His intelligence and unselfishness bodes well for his role-player potential at the next level, especially since he's unlikely to make it off his pure talent.
Hart's ball-handling and overall shot-creation ability is still a work in progress at this stage. According to Synergy, he saw only 16 possessions last season in pick and roll or isolation situations. He is mostly a straight-line driver, struggling to change speeds or directions with the ball, and does not look overly comfortable pulling up off the bounce in the mid-range. When he does get to the rim in the half-court, he can't always finish over the top of the defense with his average physical tools, as he made just 31/60 of his inside the paint attempts last season, and doesn't get to the free throw line all that often. We'll likely learn more about this part of his game as his role (and usage) expands this upcoming season.
Defensively, Hart is extremely competitive, getting in the passing lanes frequently (1.7 steals per-40), while displaying strong fundamentals and attentiveness. His technique closing out on shooters is terrific, and he generally does a great job of using his length to contest opponents' looks on the perimeter. On a Villanova team that does quite a bit of switching, Hart saw possessions guarding everywhere from 1-4, and did not look out of place even against bigger players, where his physicality and effort level helped compensate for his lack of size. Hart's average length may relegate him mostly to defending shooting guards in the NBA, but his propensity for crashing the glass (career 7.5 per-40) does help his chances of carving out a role.
Hart won't wow you with his upside, but his role-player potential, toughness and basketball IQ are great traits to have when combined with his perimeter shooting ability. With Villanova again likely to be among the top teams in college basketball, Hart is an ideal place to showcase himself, and should have an even bigger platform to do so this year.
A consensus top-100 recruit in high school, Josh Hart put together a fine freshman season at Villanova, averaging 7.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per-game.
Standing 6'5 with a 6'7.5 wingspan, Hart has a nice frame for a shooting guard at any level. He's a solid but not spectacular athlete, but puts the tools he does have to use consistently thanks to his tremendous motor. It isn't uncommon to see Hart mixing it up with much bigger players in the paint, dead-sprinting up the wing on the break, or hitting the floor pursuing a loose ball or after absorbing contact.
Hart's motor paid obvious dividends for him as a freshman in Villanova's undersized lineup. Nearly a third of his offensive possessions came in transition or on put-backs according to Synergy Sports Technology. On the whole he made a tremendous 65.9% of his shots in transition, and 67.4% around the rim in the half court thanks to his timing, elite offensive rebounding ability for a guard, and outstanding body control when looking to convert in close.
The Sidwell Friends (DC) product ranked among the NCAA leaders in two-point percentage as a freshman, a space normally reserved for big-men living off a diet of catch and finish opportunities.
Part of Hart's high 2-point percentage can be attributed to how few midrange jump shots he attempted. Normally the third or fourth option when he was on the floor, if Hart was taking a jump shot, it was usually a three-pointer of the catch and shoot variety. Knocking down 33% of such attempts, Hart showed the ability to space the floor efficiently for stretches, but his shooting form is not ideal and lacks fluidity, which limits his percentages, something that became more apparent as the season moved on. The next step in his evolution as a scorer will be improving his jump shot and creating shots off the dribble beyond attacking closeouts.
Defensively, Hart competes with the same urgency he brings offensively. Often asked to defend multiple positions over the course of a game, Hart has good, but not great lateral quickness, leaving his mark as an individual defender thanks to his consistent energy. He could stand to get stronger and be a bit more physical defending dribble penetration and fighting through screens, but he has a nice base to build on overall on this end of the floor.
Hart was among the more efficient freshman role-players in college basketball last season, even with his shooting consistency wavering at times. His feel for making an impact with his motor is impressive, and while he still has a way to go to solidify himself as a NBA-caliber prospect, he's certainly worth keeping an eye on to see how he builds off his very promising debut campaign.