The Knicks’ lone trade deadline move has been successful in the early stages. What does the Josh Hart addition mean for the rest of the year?
Trade season is now firmly in the rearview mirror, and New York kept things fairly simple at the deadline. They managed to get Josh Hart from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for a 2023 protected first-round pick, Cam Reddish, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Ryan Arcidiacono. Other than that, the Knicks were content with the rest of their rotation and have yet to fill their remaining roster spots or shake things up in their starting lineup beyond letting Hart close out games over Quentin Grimes.
So what have been the early signs of success (and otherwise) on the Hart trade? Let’s dive into the way-too-early numbers on Hart, his fit with the bench thus far, and how he can be an integral piece to this Knicks team that is seeking to move up in the standings in the Eastern Conference.
Knicks fans have already been astounded by Hart’s ability to jump on the floor and immediately impact the defensive makeup of the lineup around him. He’s been active with his hands most of all, already collecting five steals in the three games he’s played with New York, with four of those coming in his debut against the Utah Jazz.
Hart has been known for his length and speed on the floor as a defender against more athletic wings, and his ability to match up with them has opened up the floor for other bench players like Isaiah Hartenstein and Immanuel Quickley to play even better defense against their matchups. Hartenstein has especially benefitted from this, as he’s looked as good as ever on the floor with Hart in both his shot-blocking capabilities and his passing.
As mentioned previously, Hart has also been looked to as a closer for head coach Tom Thibodeau over his younger counterpart Grimes. Grimes is an excellent defender, but Hart gives the team new ways to impact opposing offenses to close games out as of late. Opponents are shooting a solid 46.2% against Hart, but only 25% from three-point range when defended by him. Again, these numbers are from an extremely small sample size, but the eye test would tell you that Hart is active all over the floor as a defender and has helped New York to be less of a guarantee to give up lights-out shooting performances.
One facet of Hart’s game that has been impressive, and much-needed for New York, is his rebounding. He has been very active in the paint so far, and with the bench, he has helped the Knicks to secure boards with ease. He has averaged about five rebounds per game since arriving to New York, and is averaging eight rebounds per game on the season. The Knicks have been winning when they are able to out-rebound their opponent. They are averaging 47 per game, which is good for third most rebounds per game in the entire league – only behind two teams with bigs who crash the boards, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Knicks are also currently without their best rebounder, Mitchell Robinson, and are still getting to the rack often to secure boards thanks to Hartenstein and Julius Randle. With the addition of Hart, they are only more formidable with rebounding on their bench and are able to put more games away with ease as a result.
Pro: Spark on offense
Hart was not exactly known for his scoring with Portland this season. While he has averaged 10 points per game, he stopped shooting three-pointers as often and was seen as more of a defensive-minded wing. But since coming over in the trade, he has been comfortable letting it fly from deep. He has shot 64.6% from long range and has been doing so with confidence. Scoring was a big need for the bench unit, and he has certainly contributed to filling that hole since arriving.
His finishing at the rim has also been stellar. If you have felt like he is unstoppable when looking to score at the rack, you are onto something that numbers also reflect. So far this season, Hart has attempted his most shots from less than 10 feet from the rim and has found the most success there. He is averaging 64.7% from that range and has been attempting a few more shots per game since coming to New York than he was with Portland. This has helped open things up for him and the rest of the bench unit tremendously and has forced teams to spread their defense out when he is in the game with starters like Jalen Brunson and Randle, both of whom draw a bulk of the attention.
Con: Grimes and Hart discourse igniting
The one true negative that has come from Hart’s success on the Knicks thus far has been the implication amongst fans that it must mean he will be sliding into the starting rotation over second-year three-and-D wing Grimes. Sure, Grimes is still raw in some situations and has yet to find the same success from three-point range that he had last year which partially earned him a spot in the starting lineup. But, he has been a staunch defender, and it would almost be nonsensical to throw another wrench into a rotation that has not suffered because of Grimes.
Hart is exactly who the Knicks needed to get this trade deadline; someone who would not only provide a spark on defense and help to maintain the large leads that the team tends to get with hot starts to games but someone who could contribute to an offense that was starting to rely pretty heavily on the prowess of Quickley and the sustainability of Hartenstein. He has done both with confidence since touching the floor at the Garden, and there does not seem to be a good enough reason why you would mess with something that is not, so far, broken.
The Knicks’ front office has taken heat in recent years for their fairly lackluster trade deadline decisions, their misfiring on a Reddish deal, and with their free agency signings. As of right now, though, it looks like they were able to rectify to some degree what felt like a lofty price for Hart. The depth that he provides is priceless for what looks to be a playoff team, and it will be interesting to see how he can maintain such infectious energy for the remainder of the Knicks’ season.