Portland Trail Blazers guard Josh Hart is entering his sixth season in the NBA. It’s his first full season with the Blazers after being acquired in a midseason trade in February, but it also might be his most important season.
Hart, 27, can opt out at the end of the season and could have the opportunity to make a ton of future money. If he opts in, his contract could pay him nearly $13 million next season, but none of that money is guaranteed.
A note on Josh Hart's contract:— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 8, 2022
One of the more unique deals in the league.
22-23: $12.96M - non-guaranteed
23-24: $12.96M - player option + non-guaranteed
That last season is as close to an MLB mutual option as you'll get in the NBA.
The Ringer listed Hart as one of the league’s top incoming free agents for the class of 2023.
Hart can still be highly effective at a lower usage rate, though, serving as a connective-tissue swingman who can defend multiple positions, run a complementary pick-and-roll, fill the lane on the fast break, finish efficiently at the cup, and compete like hell on the glass. Over the last three seasons, Luka Doncic leads all wing players in defensive rebound rate; Hart ranks second.
Hart is expected to start at the small forward spot next to Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons in the backcourt with Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic in the frontcourt.
While Hart can be extremely valuable, The Ringer questions if the Blazers would be willing to sign him to a new expensive contract after the season given the team’s recent spending.
In context, though, you wonder whether a Blazers team that spent this summer throwing boatloads of cash at other guards—a new $122 million extension for Lillard, $100 million for Simons, and $28 million for Payton—not to mention using the no. 7 pick in the draft on über-prospect Shaedon Sharpe—might think hard about showcasing Hart in the first half of what could be his walk year before exploring the market for his services come February.
Hart has one of the league’s most unique situations. He’s competing on a contending team where he has the chance to play a lot of minutes, but the future investment is very small. So Hart knows that this season could be make-or-break for him, meaning it could be the biggest season of his career so far.