Sam Hauser has been a revelation off the bench this season for the Boston Celtics.
While it’s not entirely surprising to see Hauser step up, especially in the absence of the injured Danilo Gallinari, it’s somewhat mind-blowing to see the 24-year-old leading the entire NBA in a key statistical category.
Hauser is the league’s leader in plus-minus following the matchup with the Hawks, registering a plus-121 rating on the season, according to Celtics.com’s Taylor Snow. Hauser is without a doubt the outlier in the leaders of the stat with two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, Hauser’s teammate in Jayson Tatum, Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday rounding out the top five.
Hauser’s contributions to a high-powered and efficient offense — the Celtics lead the NBA with a 119.2 offensive rating — are the main reason why he has the best plus-minus mark in the league, and finishing as a plus-35 against the Hawks certainly helped elevate him into the top spot.
And while the 6-foot-8 forward has defensive deficiencies, he’s not a complete liability on that end of the floor. Hauser has a 102.9 defensive rating, which is just a few ticks below Grant Williams and Derrick White.
“He’s constantly working and confidence is going through the roof and playing great defense for us,” Marcus Smart said of Hauser following a win over the New York Knicks earlier this month, per NBC Sports Boston. “They do go at him and we tell him all the time to be expecting it. (When) we in practice, we go at him to get him ready for how he’s gonna need to be able to handle himself and we tip our hat off to him. He’s doing a great job.”
The one caveat that comes with Hauser’s NBA-best plus-minus mark is he doesn’t play a ton of minutes like the other players in the top five. Hauser averages 16.4 minutes per game, and his more limited time on the court helps him in this regard.
Plus-minus isn’t the only statistic though that Hauser has a high ranking in. Heading into Thursday’s slate of games, the marksman is 11th in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 48.5%. That is certainly less startling given Hauser’s incredibly smooth shooting stroke.
It’s been a strong start to a breakout campaign for Hauser, but it was tough to envision it going this well.