Josh Hart’s incredible showing at the Las Vegas Summer League continued on Monday night. The 23-year-old guard dropped 37 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-109 in an entertaining semifinal battle. This isn’t some Summer League mirage, Hart is the real deal.
Hart has been the clear MVP of the Summer League and his demonstrable improvement is a huge deal for the Lakers. This summer Hart needed to dial up his 3-point shooting, become a better ball-handler and prove he could get to the rim. He’s shown an ability to do all of that while also playing tough defense and exhibiting no glaring weaknesses.
While Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will almost certainly open the season starting alongside Lonzo Ball in LA’s backcourt, Hart looks like a guy destined for a ton of playing time. He has always had this in him, but has clearly been working hard on his game this offseason. He’s just a much more complete player.
In six Summer League games, Hart is averaging 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists, while shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from 3-point range. He’s been a man among boys.
This isn’t out of nowhere, during the Lakers final eight games last season, Hart stepped up and showed what he was capable of. Over that stretch he averaged 16.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 34.9 minutes per game, while also hitting 39.1 from 3-point range.
That run was great, but the Lakers needed more. They’ve got it now. Hart is smoother, quicker, his jumper is cleaner and he knows when to attack and when to pull things back and spread the ball around. We knew he was a mature, smart player during his time at Villanova, but it’s even clearer now.
Hart’s emergence puts the Lakers in a fantastic spot. They clearly needed scoring from their second unit and with Hart and Kyle Kuzma likely penciled in alongside Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee, that group should have some punch. Unless, of course, Hart continues to improve and pushes for starter’s minutes. After his showing this summer, that scenario isn’t out of the question.