Forsberg: Hauser’s eye-opening February stats reinforce his value

It could easily get lost in the sea of loud stats the Boston Celtics have posted in the All-Star-abbreviated month of February. But there’s a very good chance that Sam Hauser will quietly top the NBA in net rating this month.

Amid a February that started with plenty of speculation about what the Celtics might do at the trade deadline, including the potential to add a big wing who could have bitten into Hauser’s playing time, Hauser only cemented his case to be a big part of Boston’s playoff rotation.

Entering the Celtics’ final game of the month, Hauser owns an NBA-best +26.7 net rating in February. Maybe more notable: He’s shooting 49 percent from the floor, 46.5 percent beyond the 3-point arc, and 100 percent at the free-throw line this month.

Hauser’s net rating is best in the league among the 248 players logging at least 15 minutes per night with at least five appearances this month. In fact, his mark is 4 points per 100 possessions better than the nearest challenger (Denver’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at +22.7). His closest teammate is Jayson Tatum at +16.0 (10th overall among qualifiers).

It’s easy to forget now that Hauser is a consistent rotation presence, but a year ago, it wasn’t that way. There were a couple of DNPs in January 2023 and playing time fluctuated from there. When the Celtics played the Sixers on February 25, 2023, Hauser logged under two total minutes of court time as Joe Mazzulla operated with an eight-man rotation.

Hauser’s role is much more defined this year. He’s avoided the shooting slumps that bubbled up as times last season. Hauser has shot the ball so well lately that it felt like a bit of a snub that he didn’t get an invite to participate in the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend (despite the team lobbying on his behalf).

Hauser seemed fine with spending a quiet week back home in Wisconsin with family and friends. He saved all those triples for the real games.

Hauser is tied for 21st in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 41.9 percent overall. Among the 83 high-volume 3-point shooters with 250 or more attempts this season, Hauser is eighth on that list. 

Hauser is +96 in plus/minus for the month of February, juiced by a +40 night in a thrashing of Brooklyn. But it was just one of four games he’s been at +14 or better. In fact, Hauser was a single-game negative just one time in February, finishing minus-1 in Saturday’s win in New York.

The Celtics’ top six has gotten a lot of attention this season, and deservedly so, but as Boston’s starters have struggled to dominate quite the way they did at the start of the season, it’s been boosts from bench pieces like Hauser and fellow net rating darling Payton Pritchard that have helped the Celtics stockpile wins.

Hauser as a shooting threat helps open the court for Boston’s core players. What’s more, he’s held up well defensively, making it easier to keep him on the court.

Hauser has to keep making shots and show that he can defend if teams target him in the postseason, but the stats show just how impactful Hauser has been this year. For the season, the Celtics have a +11.9 net rating with Hauser on the court — the second best mark among regulars, tied with Pritchard and trailing only Derrick White (+12.5).

What’s most notable about that number is it includes a 107.6 defensive rating in Hauser’s 1,187 minutes of court time. That’s the best mark among any Celtics regular, and 3.1 points lower than Boston’s defensive rating for the season (110.7). 

And to really cap a memorable February, Hauser and his wife, Mary, announced Monday that the family will welcome a baby boy in September.

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