Two weeks after NBA free agency began, Josh Hart finally has a new contract. The veteran wing is nearing an agreement on a three-year, $38 million deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The No. 30 overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2017, Hart arrived in New Orleans in the Anthony Davis trade. Since then, Hart has become something of a fan favorite because of his hustle and hard-working style. As a restricted free agent the Pelicans could have matched any offer he received, but they avoided any sort of drama or complications by just signing him themselves.
While Hart has never put up big numbers, and probably never will, he’s the type of player every team loves to have. He plays with incredible effort, can guard multiple positions and rebounds extremely well for his size. If he can improve his 3-point shot — since his rookie season he hasn’t shot better than 34.2 percent from outside — he can be a very solid 3 & D player.
After losing Lonzo Ball to the Chicago Bulls in free agency, and trading Eric Bledsoe to the Memphis Grizzlies ahead of the draft, bringing Hart back made a lot of sense for the Pelicans. They were already one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season — 113.3 defensive rating which checked in at No. 23 — and couldn’t afford to lose another important perimeter defender.
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Following the conclusion of the regular season, Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin spoke about Hart and Ball and said they could be “very important focal points on a team that goes into the playoffs. They are playoff-caliber rotational pieces for sure.” While Ball is obviously gone, that shows how the team viewed Hart as an important part of their future.
Hart was limited to 47 games last season and missed the final six weeks due to a torn ligament in his thumb that required surgery. At the time of his injury, the Pelicans did not give a specific recovery timetable, but Hart should be ready to go by the start of training camp late next month.