Pelicans closing in on 3-year deal to keep Hart

The New Orleans Pelicans and restricted free agent Josh Hart is closing in on a three-year, $38 million agreement to stay with the team, his agents Aaron Mintz, Steven Heumann and Dave Spahn told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday.

Hart, 26, played his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers before spending the last two years with the Pelicans. He was dealt to New Orleans in the trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers.

Hart averaged a career-high 8.0 rebounds in 2020-21, second to only Russell Westbrook (11.5) among NBA guards. His defensive rebounding percentage (23.4) ranked just above centers Jarrett Allen, Robert Williams, DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee.

His penchant for rebounding put him in rarified air at times this season. On March 23 against the Lakers, Hart became the first non-starter to record 15 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game since the NBA started recording stats in 1973-74.

Hart tore a ligament in his thumb on April 1 and missed the final 25 games of the season. Hart also averaged career highs in free-throw percentage (77.5) and assists per game (2.3) last year.

With the agreement, Hart returns to a Pelicans rotation that has changed since the end of last season.

The Pelicans have parted ways with three starters from a season ago (Steven Adams, Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe) and could use Hart, Devonte Graham, Nickiel Alexander-Walker, first-round pick Trey Murphy and Tomas Satoransky to help fill the backcourt minutes while Jonas Valanciunas takes over the starting center position.

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