Villanova Basketball: Josh Hart is among the NBA’s best two-way guards

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

In less than 100 games, Villanova Wildcats basketball alum Josh Hart has already established himself as one of the best two-way shooting guards in the NBA.

Josh Hart is a darn good basketball player.

While this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to fans in the 215, as Hart dominated as a focal point scorer on Jay Wright‘s 2016 NCAA national champion Villanova Wildcats basketball squad, some talent evaluators actually had questions about his ceiling as a pro.

Designated a prototypical ‘Villanova guy’, many assumed that Hart was a smart, hardworking overachiever with a high floor, but without the ceiling to ever develop into a consistent starter, let alone a star.

More from Villanova Wildcats

He was taken 30th overall after all.

However, less than 100 games into his professional career, Hart has already shown a propensity for punching above his weight class.

Not only has Hart eclipsed his much more prestigious teammates like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram as arguably the Lakers’ most untouchable prospect alongside fellow first-round steal Kyle Kuzma, but so far this season, he’s virtually outperformed every other shooting guard in his draft class period in route to becoming one of LeBron James‘ favorite go-to targets on the wings.

And it’s not just players on first-year contracts that Hart is outperforming, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus ratings, Hart is already among the best shooting guards in the entire NBA period.

Though his stats aren’t particularly jaw-dropping, as he’s only averaging 8.9 points, 1.1 steals, and 3.2 rebounds while knocking down 37.8 percent of his shots from downtown, Hart has the fourth highest RPM of any player at his position in the league at 1.67; trailing only Jimmy Butler, Danny Green, and the oft-injured Victor Oladipo.

With the 18th best offensive mark of eligible players at .91, and the sixth-best defensive mark at .76, Hart is one of only six shooting guards in the entire NBA with a positive offensive and defensive RPM ratings, and at 23, he’s by far the youngest player of the six to earn such an honor.

No wonder Hart is slowing starting to replace KCP as the Lakers’ preferred shooter off the wings?

Have his efficiency numbers dipped a bit with an expanded workload? Sure, as Hart’s 3-point shooting percentage has dropped from an outstanding 39.6 percent to a slightly above average 37.8 percent as his attempts per game has increased from 3.1 to 4.4, but he’s making almost two of those shots a game now, as opposed to slightly more than one last season.

Would it be nice for his percentage to be in the 40s while attempting half a dozen shots a game? Sure, but most players who can do that over a full season, J.J. Redick come to mind, are notoriously ineffective on the defensive end of the court. Hart? He’s actually a better defender than he is a scorer, which is astonishing when you consider he’s leading a LeBron James team in outside shooting percentage.

Now, will Hart ever earn an All-Star berth? Probably not, as the Western Conference is absolutely stockpiled with formidable guards, including a pair from his own draft class in Donovan Mitchell and DeAaron Fox, but could he elevate himself into the Lakers’ starting shooting guard and remain an instrumental piece on a team competing for championships? That’s not only possible but relatively likely.

Next. Fans work their way into Fandom 250 after another championship. dark

Man, that’s a pretty great turnaround for a player that some scouts deemed a reach in the first round, huh? I guess outside observers are going to have to reevaluate what it means to be a ‘Villanova guy’, as Hart and his fellow national champions are a decidedly different breed of pro prospects than the Wildcats of yesteryear.