76ers

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
Position:
SG
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.

Analysis
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.

Ranking the 10 most important members of the 1982-83 Sixers

ap_julius_erving_getty_moses_malone_usa_andrew_toney_usa_maurice_cheeks_sixers.jpg
AP Images/Getty Images/USA Today Images

Ranking the 10 most important members of the 1982-83 Sixers

Thirty-seven years ago, the Sixers had a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals and were two wins in Los Angeles away from a championship. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia will be re-airing that series this weekend, showing Game 1 on Friday night, Game 2 Saturday and Games 3 and 4 Sunday. 

We’ll have stories to come on that team, which won 65 games in the regular season and came one game away from a perfect postseason. We begin today with a ranking of the 1982-83 Sixers’ 10 most important members. 

10. Earl Cureton 
Cureton didn’t play heavy minutes in 1982-83 as a backup to league MVP Moses Malone. In the playoffs, he played even less. But he did step up in a big spot when the Sixers needed him. With Malone in foul trouble in Game 2, Cureton was forced into action. Though it doesn’t look like much on a score sheet, he got the Sixers through 17 minutes without Malone that night in a 103-93 win.

9. Clemon Johnson 
The Sixers picked up Johnson in a February trade with the Pacers, and he was a solid backup big man. Malone had played a league-high 42 minutes per game the previous season with the Rockets, but he was able to average "only" 36.6 minutes after Johnson’s arrival and be sharp for the playoffs. 

8. Marc Iavaroni 
Bobby Jones may have been the Hall of Famer, but it was Iavoroni who actually started in 1982-83. The 26-year-old rookie had just finished four years playing overseas after his college career ended. On a team loaded with All-Stars, Iavoroni was a glue guy. He wasn’t afraid to get physical and do the little things his team needed. While the stats won’t wow you, make no mistake, Iavoroni was a big part of that championship run.

7. Clint Richardson 
Richardson was valuable as the team’s primary guard off the bench. He stepped up in the Sixers’ Game 1 Finals win when Maurice Cheeks got into foul trouble, playing 31 minutes and recording 15 points, four steals and three assists. 

6. Billy Cunningham 
You have to show some love for the man running the show. Though 1982-83 was Cunningham’s only title with the team, he’s easily the best coach in Sixers history. He coached and won more games and has the highest winning percentage and most playoff wins of any coach in franchise history. Cunningham was also a Hall of Fame player for the Sixers, helping capture a title in 1966-67.

5. Bobby Jones 
“The Secretary of Defense” earned the NBA’s inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award in 1983 after starting 73 games in 1981-82. As always, he was one of the league’s better defenders and finished the season third in defensive box plus-minus. Jones had 13 points on 6 for 7 shooting, four steals and two blocks in the Finals clincher. 

4. Andrew Toney 
While Toney is often looked at as a “what if” story, the healthy version of the guard was a crucial part of the 1982-83 team. He made the first of his two All-Star teams that season, averaging 19.7 points and 4.5 assists a game. He was just as critical in the playoffs, averaging 22.1 points in the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals. “The Boston Strangler” appeared to be destined for the Hall of Fame before serious foot issues derailed his career.

3. Maurice Cheeks 
Cheeks made his first of four career All-Star Games in 1982-1983, and it was a well-deserved selection. He was a reliable presence, starting 79 regular-season games and all 13 playoff contests, and an excellent defender and distributor. Cheeks posted 12.5 points, 6.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Most importantly, he got the stars the ball when and where they needed it and conducted the team with ample poise and intelligence. 

2. Julius Erving 
For most of his Sixers career, Dr. J would probably be No. 1 on a list like this. Though he wasn’t quite at the peak of his powers at age 32, Erving was still an unreal athlete and an All-Star. He averaged 21.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals in the regular season. While his scoring numbers were down slightly during the playoff run, his defense was on another level. He averaged 2.1 blocks a game that postseason, including 11 in four NBA Finals games. Erving needed a boost from Malone to get him over the top, but it was still a 1 and 1A type of situation with the pair of Hall of Famers.

1. Moses Malone 
It’s difficult to exaggerate how good Malone was in his prime. After being traded from Houston to Philadelphia, he won a second consecutive MVP award, led the league in rebounding for a third straight season and helped the Sixers finally overcome the Lakers. He also was a clear choice for Finals MVP, averaging 25.8 points and 18 rebounds in the series. Even if the Sixers didn't pull it off, fans will always remember his bold "fo', fo' fo'" prediction and how he nearly backed it up with his play. GM Pat Williams' deal to add Malone is one of the best trades in Sixers history, and the 1986 trade that sent him to the Bullets is one of the worst

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2020 NBA draft profile: Kira Lewis Jr. has the whole package offensively

2020 NBA draft profile: Kira Lewis Jr. has the whole package offensively

Kira Lewis Jr.

Position: PG
Height: 6-3
Weight: 165
School: Alabama

One of the top scoring point guards in the 2020 NBA Draft, Lewis filled up the box score as a sophomore at Alabama, averaging 18.5 points, 5.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. He was the only player in college basketball to reach all those averages this season. 

He posted solid shooting numbers across the board — 45.9 percent from the field, 36.6 percent from three-point range and 80.2 percent from the free throw line.

Lewis just turned 19 years old in April and is younger than Cole Anthony and Tyrese Maxey, who both declared for the draft after their freshman seasons.

Strengths

Lewis is an impressive offensive creator in the half court and an absolute blur in the open floor. He’s one of those guys who can race down the floor for a transition layup before the defense can get set. He reminds me of a skinnier Coby White, who put up big-time scoring numbers in the second half of his rookie season with the Bulls.

Lewis can take his man off the dribble in pick-and-roll situations and is a good enough three-point shooter to keep defenses honest. He has elite quickness and is going to make some big men look silly when they get switched onto him. 

Alabama often gave Lewis the ball and let him take his man off the dribble while the other four players spread the floor. That game plan makes sense when you watch Lewis work. He has the whole offensive package: hesitation dribbles, crossovers, step-back threes and blow-by layups. He also has a nice knack for driving all the way to the baseline and finding open three-point shooters in the corners.

Weaknesses

Lewis has some adjustments to make at the NBA level. He’s very skinny, which could lead to difficulties holding his position defensively and finishing in traffic against bigger, stronger defenders.

He also averaged 3.5 turnovers to go with his 5.2 assists this season, but again, he had the ball in his hands a lot. 

As an NBA rookie, Lewis needs to figure out how to keep the turnovers down while also adjusting to a more complementary offensive role. 

Fit

Lewis checks a bunch of potential boxes for the Sixers.

Offensive creator off the bench? Check.

Backup point guard who could run the show and make threes when Ben Simmons posts up? Check.

Upside potential to be a starter down the road? Check.

The problem is that skill set will also appeal to a bunch of other teams who pick ahead of the Sixers. I’m not sure he’ll make it to them on draft night, but stranger things have happened.

The combination of Simmons and Lewis leading fast breaks for 48 minutes would make the Sixers one of the most fun transition teams in the league. 

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