The case for Josh Hart as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for Josh Hart as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Josh Hart
School: Villanova
Height: 6-5
Weight: 209
Wingspan: 6-8¼ 

Bring up the first-weekend NCAA Tournament exits all you want, but Josh Hart is a winner. After all, his national title is one more than most college ballers ever get.

It’s hard to understate what Hart meant to Villanova. He was the best player in a 2017 graduating class that racked up unprecedented accolades: a national championship, an undefeated Big 5 career, two Big East Tournament titles (Hart was named Most Outstanding Player during both), four Big East regular season titles and just one on-campus loss in The Pavilion. On a personal level, his senior year included being named a Naismith Award finalist and First Team All-American, taking home the Julius Erving Award as the country’s best small forward and receiving Big East Player and Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Toss the trophies aside, though, and his numbers back it up. Ultimate college hoops stat guy Ken Pomeroy had Hart as his 2017 Player of the Year. Hart converted on 40 percent of his threes and shot 58 percent inside the arc his senior year. On a Villanova team that was essentially down to seven usable players for most of the season (and sometimes just six), he averaged more than 33 minutes and carried the load well, finishing the year with 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Hart’s glory on the Main Line will not convert to instant stardom in the NBA. He won’t step onto any roster as a starter. But he does so many things well that even with his relative age compared to one-and-dones, he’s a worthy draft target. Here’s why:

The case for Hart
He’s not particularly flashy, but Hart can score just about any way he wants. About a third of his 673 points last season came from deep. He’s solid at the line, as he shot nearly 75 percent last year. He’ll back down smaller guards if needed. But what’s been most impressive is his composure when driving the lane. So many times he’d finish with his off hand, convert through contact or, what seemed to become his signature move, stop in the paint, pivot and nail a short pull-up with ease.

It wasn’t one of his massive efforts — like 37/11/4 against Notre Dame — but one series of possessions from this past season points to his versatility and dependability. Villanova was undefeated. A fellow top-10 team in Creighton awaited in Omaha, but the ‘Cats had problems with trap game at home against DePaul. The game was tied at 56-56 with three minutes left. Then Hart took over. He scored 10 straight ‘Nova points and pretty much single-handedly avoided the upset.

Yet Hart’s abilities go beyond those of just a scoring guard. His passing satisfies. Reports are especially high on his offensive rebounding, which along with his defensive capabilities (1.6 steals per game), is a product of his unrelenting motor. Just watch this game-winning putback in the Big East Tournament over Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, the nation’s leading rebounder.

The narrative with Hart, especially amongst the national media during March, was that his appeal wasn’t necessarily in his above-average skills on the court. Rather, it was all about the intangibles — the quality of Hart as a person and his basketball IQ — and the way he exemplified the Villanova “attitude.” The fact that he doesn’t take a possession off on either end of the court makes him the kind of guy you want on your team.

The case against Hart
The numbers are strong and Hart is a popular guy. Cool. There are still some problems. Critics of his jumper say it takes a little too long to get off. He’s more of a spot-up than off-the-dribble shooter, benefitting from defensive holes created by a Villanova lineup that usually had four guys on the floor who could knock down any open look.

As good as he’s been in the lane, Hart currently lacks the ability it’ll take to consistently get past 7-foot shot swatters, something he’ll see nightly in the NBA. He’s quick, but he’s not as shifty as some of the NBA’s top guards.

And as for those intangibles, who cares if Hart’s an Eagle Scout? Teams want wins, not merit badges. Also, he’s 22 years old already.

This point might be a bit tired by now, but it’ll remain true until the Sixers’ roster adds a few pieces: they can’t shoot. Out of 30 teams, they ranked 27th in field goal percentage and 25th in three-point percentage. Shooting guard is a spot that, as of now, has no long-term occupant. The Sixers have four second-round picks and Hart could be around by the time they’re on the clock. If they really like him, package some of those assets and move up. 

The success of a couple of other guys bodes well for Hart’s future. Darrun Hilliard was a fine ‘Nova guard — but never of Hart’s caliber — and has spent two seasons with the Pistons. The Bucks' Malcolm Brogdon stayed in school through his senior year, posting numbers comparable to Hart’s, and could edge out Dario Saric and Joel Embiid for Rookie of the Year. If these guys have survived, and in the case of Brogdon, thrived, Hart can do the same.

Hart has the all-around skill set that should make him a viable bench player. He’s a winner, and Sixers executive Brandon Williams made it clear at a pre-draft workout this week that the Sixers value winning. Now give him a chance to win a spot in the rotation.

Sixers' turnover-filled nightmare comes with silver lining

AP Images/ USA Today Images

Sixers' turnover-filled nightmare comes with silver lining

Brett Brown sat at the podium with a puzzled look on his face as he stared at the box score.

Sure, he’d likely already been told that the Sixers had a season-high 27 turnovers in their 106-102 Game 4 win over the Miami Heat. But it’s one thing to hear it from someone else and another to see it written down in black and white.

“The fact that you can actually win a playoff game with this volume of turnovers is mind-boggling,” Brown said.

The Sixers’ level of carelessness on Saturday was equally astonishing.

For three quarters, the Sixers resembled the regular-season version of the team we have become accustomed to seeing over the years under Brown. They had the ball stolen on dribble moves and their passes intercepted. They had passes sail out of bounds and committed offensive fouls.

Simply put, the Sixers were tripping over themselves to give the ball back to the Heat.

“The first three periods, I was shocked to look up at the scoreboard and not feel like you’re just down 15, 14, 18 given the way the game went,” Brown said.

“I’m shocked that we won this game. We really didn’t have a right to win this game. I thought that, defensively, in the first three periods, we were a C-minus. I thought that our turnovers were an F.”

While a lot of that had to do with the Sixers’ own sloppiness, the Heat’s level of desperation was certainly a factor.

“Coming into this game this afternoon, you know you’re going to get the Miami Heat’s best,” Brown said. “It’s a culture of winning. They’ve won championships. Spo’s (Erik Spoelstra) a hell of a coach. You knew they were going to be all wound up. Like I said before, you didn’t have to be a mystic to guess what this was going to look like. 

“And they jumped us and we didn’t handle it well. We had multiple turnovers. I thought in Game 3 we responded to the physicality with only 12 and we did some things fundamentally more correct. There were several times in tonight’s game that they got the better of us and this environment got the better of us a little bit.”

Not when it mattered most.

The Sixers committed just three of those 27 turnovers in the fourth quarter as they dominated another final period to finish off the comeback.

And while the Sixers know they will never reach their playoff goals if they continue giving the ball away at such a rapid rate, they were pleased the team could stop the bleeding in crunch time with the game on the line.

“I think we did a great job of coming back, staying poised and playing as a team,” Ben Simmons said. “Going through our structured plays, whatever it is, defensively and offensively.” 

“I feel that we have been trending in a way that the fourth-period execution, the fourth-period mentality — defensively driven — has been our identity,” Brown said. “Then you go to the other side and say, well, we did a pretty good job of not turning the ball over. Three turnovers, by our standards, is an A-plus.”

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Sixers are 'special'

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Sixers are 'special'

MIAMI — For the 13 first rounds Dwyane Wade has played in, the current Sixers-Heat matchup has made a strong impression.

“They’re good,” Wade said. “They’re special. They’re a good group. They put the right team together.”

Sitting at the podium, Wade spent a good amount of time during his press conference praising the team that has put the Heat on the brink of elimination. He’s been on the winning side often, including three championships, so he recognizes a unique team when he sees it. 

“This definitely is one of the best first-round series I’ve ever played in, first-round opponent,” Wade said.

The Sixers have gone up 3-1 on the Heat with a roster that is balanced both positionally and in experience. Seven players finished in double digits Saturday and only veteran JJ Redick had more than 20 points. Ben Simmons, with whom Wade already has a relationship (see story), recorded his first career playoff triple-double (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). He became the youngest player to do so since Wade’s former teammate LeBron James back in 2006. 

"I give a lot of credit to their point guard, their leader, Ben,” Wade said. “He does a great job of getting them settled, getting the ball to his guys, and keep feeding confidence to them.”

Wade described the Sixers as having “an edge.” They will use it to test the Heat Tuesday when the series returns to Philadelphia. Wade encourages his teammates to play with maturity and withstand the Sixers’ runs. The Heat split the first two games at the Wells Fargo Center. 

“They’re going to play with pace, play with speed, play physical,” Wade said. “Obviously they’re going to play with their crowd. It’s going to be a high energy type of game from them … All we’ve got to do is just worry about this one game and giving everything we have for that game. You walk out of that game, you gave everything you had, you can live with whatever result is there at the end.”

Wade, 36, has had vintage moments against the Sixers in this series. He led all players with 28 points off the bench in the Heat’s Game 2 win. On Sunday, he scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter alone. 

Asked about the possibility of this game against the Sixers being his last game in Miami playing for the Heat, Wade said, “I won’t answer that right now. I’ve got another game to play. I’m focused on the next game and trying to win that one.”

What he will answer is questions about his competition. 

"They’re a very good team," Wade said. "I can’t say nothing negative about them at all. So far they’ve been great opponents.”