Two years ago, Sam Hauser was splitting time between Boston and Maine after going through the entire NBA Draft without his name being called. Now, No. 30 not only spends all his time with a championship contender, but he is contributing to it at a high level. It is becoming clearer and clearer: "Big Smooth" is here to stay.
Only four players over the last five contests have netted more shots from the great beyond than Hauser himself. Of all the players with at least 13 made threes during that span, only Indiana Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton has been more efficient. When he's hot, he's hot. Right now, he is straight-up exuding heat. Nobody has been able to cool him down since his slow start in the first three games. If this was NBA Jam, No. 30 would have that "on-fire" ball coming out of his hand. Unlike NBA Jam, that "ball" has not disappeared.
He has found creative ways to get himself open. It helps when you are surrounded by the best starting five in the league right now. Against the Knicks, we saw him throw New York off by acting like he was going to set a screen for Jayson Tatum to roll off of. Instead, Tatum set a back screen, setting Hauser free to retreat behind the line and knock it down.
Everyone and their mother knows that the reason why the Celtics took a chance on him was because of his prolific shooting ability. However, in this campaign, the former Virginia guard has begun to consistently mesh his efficiency from the great beyond with quality work on the other end of the floor.
Hauser currently in the 78th percentile in isolation defense, allowing just 0.64 points per possession. He has held his opponent to 30% shooting from the field, tied for the second best mark of any player with at least a 15% isolation frequency on defense. We've seen Hauser stay with elite one on one scorers like Jalen Brunson.
Joe Mazzulla gave his take on Hauser's defensive growth, stating, "I feel just as comfortable with him guarding as anybody else -- I've said it from day one, I think he's a very, very good defender, underrated, and as he continues to get better, it makes our team better.”
One of the most impressive things is not only his defense when ball clubs target him -- it's his increased off-the-ball intelligence too. The 25-year-old still has a long way to go, but the beginning part of the campaign has shown he is every bit capable of becoming a true two-way asset off the bench.
Of course, you're going to get those times where Mikal Bridges blows by No. 30 with the quick first step. He isn't Jrue Holiday. Frankly, nobody is. The Wisconsin native allows his opponent to get into his body when put into isolation, embracing the contact. He uses his hands to force the individual into pulling up for a tough mid-range jump-shot.
We don't know why Mazzulla won't reveal the reasoning behind his defensive evolution, but whatever it is, continue to do it. The tests are going to continue to come. No. 30 is not Boston's best-kept secret anymore. The entire NBA world knows his capabilities.
With time, there are going to be even more leaps being made. As of now, there is not much more the Celts could be asking of No. 30. In order to lift a title, you need players like these. Hauser has become a slam dunk for the franchise, and the benefits of believing in him will continue to be acquired.