Josh Hart needs to shoot open 3s
He Portland Trail Blazers they are stuck in a valley of victory after descending their last real peak two months ago. If and when they get back up the hill and start winning again is a mystery, but, first, they need to solve some of their problems. “Cough cough” becomes “cough cough”.
A multitude of factors have caused the slide from the top of the Western Conference to the bottom of the 2023 NBA Play-In picture. While today’s topic is not at the top of the list of issues , has become quite noticeable, at least to me.
Starting forward Josh Hart provides a great deal of service on a basketball court. He defends, pushes, dribbles and passes, all skills executed with an above average basketball IQ. These traits are adaptable and valuable to all 30 NBA franchises, which may lead Hart to play the rest of the season in a different jersey, given his player option for 2023-24. We have already discussed ad nauseam.
One thing Hart isn’t doing particularly well is shooting the ball into the rim from behind the arc. His 2022-23 numbers are down, both in tries and hits.
The attempts is what brings us here today. Hart is taking a career-low 2.0 3-pointers per game and is making his career-low 32.6 percent of them. It shows if he compares to the two and a half seasons of him with the new orleans pelicans, where he took 4.4 three-pointers per contest and still managed to hit 33.4 percent of them. He also made 3.6 3-pointers per game in the two years he spent with the los angeles lakersconstituting 36.1 percent of them.
Unlike previous seasons, all 29 3-pointers Hart has made in the last three months have been assisted, predominantly catch-and-shoot (1.8 of his 2.0 3-shot attempts per game). This suggests that he is less likely to have a defender in front of him at the time of the catch, as we’ll see later.
But while he’s only taking 2.0 3-pointers per game, he’s getting a lot more open looks from long range. He’s just not shooting at them. This trend has led to one of the most notable of the multiple Portland mistakes we’ve seen this season: the “Josh Hart lets an open 3-pointer slip by, dribbles into the paint on a dropped shot or with the ball going to the other team” Rotation.
It started out as embarrassing, but now it elicits genuine anger, especially when it comes to a player of his stature, someone we know can do what needs to be done from long range.
Where is Hart taking his shots?
For the purposes of today’s article, we’re going to compare the 47 games he played with the 2020-21 New Orleans Pelicans (his last full season with that franchise) and the 43 he played with the Blazers this season. Yes, Hart played predominantly as a substitute in 2020-21, but he was getting starting-level minutes and a shooting diet that shouldn’t be much different than what’s currently expected of him.
For much of that 2020-21 season, Hart shot 52 percent of his shots (not including shots) from behind the arc, good enough for the 58th percentile for all fullbacks. A total of 3.8 of his 4.1 attempts were catch and shoot. Defenders got within two and four feet on just 0.3 of those 4.1 attempts.
During that year, Hart made 12 percent of his shots from midrange, hitting 46 percent of them, good enough for the 86th percentile at his position.
The remainder (36 percent) were taken at the rim, and 63 percent went through the net, an average 55th percentile for full-backs.
See Hart’s shot chart below, darker orange areas represent more shots.
Fast forward to today. So far this season, 26 percent of Hart’s shots (not including fly balls) have been taken from threes, the 7th percentile among wings. He has halved the number of shots made from three in the past two years. To provide some perspective, in the more than four years he spent in the league before coming to Portland, Hart has rarely shot below 40 percent of his shot from that range.
Yes, the Pelicans, and the Lakers before that, ran different offensive schemes, but for someone previously comfortable behind the arc, as Hart was, it’s been nothing short of disconcerting to watch this season.
Importantly, not a single 3-pointer he’s attempted this season has seen a defender defend him from closer than two feet. The closest they’ve ever been is between two and four feet apart and that’s only been on 0.1 of their 2.0 attempts per game. And while this obviously doesn’t reflect the numerous overlooked 3-pointers, I think it’s safe to say that opponents aren’t giving Hart the same defensive treatment as teammates Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons.
The natural response to this would be, “Okay, trebles aren’t great, but you’re probably doing fine in the midrange.” Sorry but no. This season, Hart has been shooting 26 percent of his shots (compared to 2020-21) from midrange, but hit just 33 percent of them, putting him in a dismal 18th percentile for players in his season. position.
On the contrary, his shots at the basket have benefited. He’s taking 52 percent of his shots (98th percentile from his position) and shooting 68 percent of them (78th percentile from his position), which is fine.
As for the eye test, even the most casual basketball watcher will notice the 6’5 veteran’s current penchant for catching the ball behind the arc, fake pumping or sidestepping, and then dart into the paint. From here, he shoots at mid-range or kicks at a teammate, which usually leads to a rush shot or turnover.
Don’t get me wrong, some of those overlooked three-run jumpers can be effective, but it’s not the best way to support this offense, which is currently already littered with turnovers.
lost the ball
And this is the problem. The 27-year-old is posting a career-high in turnovers relative to the use of it. He is passing the ball back to the opponent 15.7 percent of the time, currently in the sixth percentile for guarding the ball at the forward position, with only Deni Avdija, Marjon Beauchamp, Dyson Daniels, Frank Ntilikina and Davon Reed behind him.
I’m not suggesting that all your turnovers happen on the catch and throw. Hart also plays a facilitator role, carrying the ball down the court and starting the offense at times, but his usage this season is on par with the rest of his career — around 13 percent.
For more perspective, let’s go back to the 2020-21 season, where Hart had a 13.5 percent usage rate and only turned the ball over 11.4 percent of the time.
In 43 games this season, Hart has already racked up 72 turnovers, compared to the 49 he recorded in the 47 games through 2020-21. That’s 23 additional turnovers in four fewer games.
Why is this happening?
I dont know.
For anyone watching the Blazers’ losses to the denver nuggets Tuesday and the Philadelphia 76ers On Thursday, opposing defenses picked up on Hart’s allergy to long-range shots. They’ve been sinking into it, affecting space for Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons trying to get to the rim.
We know Hart can shoot. Let’s not forget his game-winning buzzer-beater against the Miami Heat in Florida in November.
Let’s also remember that in the 13 games played with the Blazers after the February trade of last season, Hart made 2.4 of his 6.4 3-point attempts, good enough for an impressive 37 percent. This included her 44-point performance against his hometown. washington wizards on March 12, when he drilled 6-for-9 from long range in what turned out to be a pretty impressive victory for the “trying to tank” Blazers.
At least according to coach Chauncey Billups, Hart’s reluctance to shoot deep isn’t a team directive. Earlier this month, the coach weighed in on Hart’s penchant for passing up 3-pointers.
Chauncey Billups, asked if Josh Hart has been too reluctant to shoot: “Yeah.”
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) January 15, 2023
“Yeah, we’ve talked about that…he brushes them off by trying to be too selfless, but hopefully he’ll start shooting more.” -Billups on Josh Hart letting open shots pass
—Danny Marang (@DannyMarang) January 15, 2023
Selfless is fine, but when you’re normally a decent long-range shooter, letting open shots slip by doesn’t help anyone, particularly the currently struggling Blazers.
I appreciate Josh Hart. I enjoy his rebounding ability, his ability to get to the basket, and his dogged effort on defense and fumbles. But I also want him to make triples. This team needs him hitting 3-pointers, not only to put points on the board, but also to lure opposing defenses out of the paint.
Whether it’s a lack of confidence, disinterest, or a combination of both, it’s not great. But I also have no doubt that Hart will eventually rediscover his love of shooting from long range. Unfortunately, with the trade deadline in two and a half weeks, there’s a chance he won’t find it again while he’s wearing a Portland jersey.