Monday, October 2 2023
Josh Hart
Josh Hart / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

Both of the best Knicks seasons in nearly a decade featured a mid-season trade for a Tom Thibodeau favorite that helped boost the rotation to new heights. In 2021, it was the acquisition of Derrick Rose and in 2023 it was trading for Josh Hart.

New York was well into getting its season back on track when they traded for Hart at the deadline, giving up a first-round pick, Cam Reddish and cap filler. But his immediate impact made it feel like he was the missing piece this roster lacked, a bulldozing, pure hustle player that could do all the little winning things.

The Knicks went on a nine game winning streak once Hart joined the rotation, including wins over Atlanta, Miami, and two against Boston. His second game was a 27-point outing against the Nets, where he sealed the game with a remarkable steal and finish, shouting to the Madison Square Garden faithful the city was theirs.

Storybook moments aside, Hart was really good for the Knicks this season. He averaged 10.2 points, seven rebounds and 3.7 assists in 30 minutes a night over 25 games, shooting 61.9 percent from two and 51.9 percent from three.

Those averages put him in a group of less than 20 players that replicated that production, and don’t account for his defense and non-box-score plays. He’d beat guys to loose balls on a nightly basis, swinging games on those 50/50 plays, and added to the general annoyance of playing the Knicks with his offensive rebounding and hounding on the perimeter.

Contributing in those facets wasn’t surprising, but his offense was a bit of a revelation that came down to earth in the Playoffs. Hart’s an effective straight-line driver, connecting playmaker and transition scorer, but his shooting was always in question.


Hart recorded above average three-point seasons on decent volume, but for some reason went through stretches where he shies away from those looks. He was in the middle of one when he was dealt to New York.

As a Knick he seemed to rediscover his confidence from the perimeter, attempting 3.2 a game in his first six games, then his output nearly halved the rest of the way. Despite many more minutes in the Playoffs, he never looked comfortable falling back on that jumper, even on open looks, shooting 31 percent from range.

This will be a major sticking point in determining his future with the Knicks. The Miami Heat all but ignored him on offense, and Thibodeau was hellbent on not only playing him 40 minutes but often alongside poor shooters, cramping the team’s spacing.

Hart being miscast isn’t his fault, but if he’s going to have negative gravity in the postseason, it limits his effectiveness and ability to stay on the court in the biggest games. It wasn’t all bad news in the postseason though.


The rest of Hart’s game held up as well as you’d hoped. He was essential defensively against Donovan Mitchell, Jimmy Butler and the various guys he switched on.

Oftentimes when the Knicks offense bogged down, he was able to generate something, whether that be on a putback, transition attack or clever inside-out passing. He also had another marquee moment, hitting a huge fadeaway off-dribble three on a bum leg in the closing moments of a game one victory over Cleveland.

Hart has a player option for next season worth $13 million, which he’s likely to decline in pursuit of a long-term deal. The Knicks are first in line to offer him one, with the two parties clearly big fans of each other.

House money is on Hart staying in the blue and orange, the question is under what terms. With the salary cap rising, fans shouldn’t be shocked to see a number up to the $20 million a year range.

His production wouldn’t be easily replaced, especially with the Knicks’ flexibility waning under their big contracts. While his outside shooting and Thibs’ overdependence are concerns, re-signing him, even at a premium, should be the easy and correct move here.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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