The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021-22 season has come to an end. The summer ahead will hold plenty of decisions for the club. They put 27 different players on the court during the regular season. Not all are still with the team, but enough are that there’s no way the Blazers could retain them all...if they even wanted to. A 27-55 record would argue against a high retention rate, but asterisks abound despite the dismal performance.
Into this question-filled swamp stride Dave Deckard and Dia Miller with their annual review of Portland’s roster. They talk about each player, then decide whether they would keep or yeet (toss) the player in the coming year. Performance, fit, age, salary, and team priorities/direction are all open for discussion.
The Blazers moved, and acquired, a ton of players at February’s trade deadline, but no incoming veteran played a more prominent role than Josh Hart. The 6’5 wing stepped into the starting lineup immediately. Over 13 appearances he averaged 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He shot over 50% from the field, 37% from the three-point arc, and he even played defense. He became like one of those late-night infomercial products. He even makes julienne fries!
The Blazers have options with Hart. His contract is not guaranteed next season. Was his brief, but brilliant, performance enough to ensure another year with the team?
Dave: I know Josh Hart is one of your favorites. I assume this is an instant keep? But why? What role do you expect him to play next year?
Dia: I do love Josh Hart. He was an absolute shock to me. He wasn’t even on my radar of players that could possibly end up on this team. Then suddenly, here he is—and I am pretty happy about It. I’m not alone in that, with the franchise making comments about his value to the team as well. I anticipate Hart will be suiting up as a Trail Blazer next season. I think he can either be solid in the starting line up (I’m excited to see him play alongside Damian Lillard), or he could possibly come off the bench and be a huge asset to what we have previously mentioned is a struggling second string.
Dave: Technically they could cut him and save money on his non-guaranteed contract. As we’ve talked about a lot, that makes zero sense at this point. They’d wouldn’t generate enough cap space to make the move worth it. They couldn’t get a comparable player of his quality with those dollars. So Hart becomes the new glue guy for the soft reboot next season.
You brought up one of the issues, though. He wants to play shooting guard. The Blazers have Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons penciled in at the guard spot. What gives? Does Hart slide to small forward? Does Hart come off the bench? Or does he bump Anfernee? Do you think the Blazers can get full minutes and production out of Hart?
Dia: The only reasonable answer to this in my opinion is small forward. I’d like to see him next to Damian Lillard in the starting lineup, but I think that gives some options with the two of them and Anfernee Simons that will make the bench stronger. This screams versatility to me— which seems like a beautiful thing going forward.
Dave: I don’t know. It’s still kind of mix-matchy and out of position. I’m at the stage where I like some of Portland’s individual players, but I have no idea how they’re supposed to mesh together while maximizing everyone’s abilities. But we’re keeping Josh Hart anyway, I assume?
Dia: I, on the other hand have thrown caution to the wind and am assuming we can overcome anything roster-wise after playing 27 people this season. But yes, Josh Hart stays. And regardless of how he fits, we will all very much enjoy his banter and his unrivaled facial expressions and reactions.
Dave: The defense and passing ability clinch it for me. There’s no reason you’d ever be sad having Josh Hart on your team. Even in an in-between time, where we’re not sure if anything will work conclusively, Hart’s a keeper.
What about you, dear readers? Is Josh Hart an easy “keep” for you, or is there more nuance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Our story so far...
Anfernee Simons: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep
Jusuf Nurkic: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep
Ben McLemore: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep
CJ Elleby: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Yeet
Nassir Little: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep
Trendon Watford: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep
Drew Eubanks: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep
Justise Winslow: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep
Josh Hart: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep