Knicks Face Uncertain Future With Trade-Deadline Prize Josh Hart

Josh Hart Knicks-Hawks

Getty Josh Hart looks on during a game between the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks.

We may only be three games into his New York Knicks run at this point, but the early returns on Josh Hart in the Big Apple have been overwhelmingly positive. So far, he’s stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 17.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals in 26.0 minutes per outing.

More importantly, the Knicks have yet to lose with Hart in the lineup. And they’re outscoring the opposition by a whopping 26.9 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor.

Hart’s efforts as of this writing have eased some of the pain involved with having to attach a first-round pick to forgotten-man Cam Reddish in order to pry him from the Portland Trail Blazers’ clutches. As good as things have been, though, there’s a nonzero chance that the Hart-Knicks partnership runs its course sooner rather than later.

As Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes sees it, the 27-year-old Hart poses the biggest flight risk of anyone on the Knicks roster.

B/R: Josh Hart Could Leave the New York Knicks Hanging as Early as This Summer

Josh Hart's INSANE 27-Point OFF the Bench Performance with 4 3PM Powers NY Knicks to VictoryJosh Hart provided the @nyknicks with a scoring spark off the bench with 27 PTS and 4 3PM in the win!#NBA #NBATODAY #nba2023 #nbaregularseason #highlights #basketball #g-league #lebronjames #kobebryant #stephencurry #michaeljordan2023-02-14T05:04:23Z

During his introductory press conference, Hart uttered a sentence that has only made Knicks fans more happy with each successsive appearance he has made for the team. “I’m looking for a home, and I think this could be it,” he declared, via SportsNet New York.

Even if he meant that with every fiber of his being, though, his financial reality as a talented, late-20s wing player who plays defense leaves the door open for an early Knicks exit. Noted Hughes:

Hart has a $12.9 million player option for 2023-24 that he’s all but certain to decline. At 28 when free agency rolls around, the six-year veteran would be foolish to pass on the chance to re-enter the market in search of a richer deal…

Teams with cap space will see him as a plug-and-play piece, and it’ll be a surprise if he can’t get at least $16 million per year on a new deal.

The latter figure may actually be a conservative one if he can continue producing at something close to his current level. From a strictly offensive standpoint, that’s probably asking a lot of a player whose career three-point conversion rate checks in at 34.6% (he’s hit nine of his 14 attempts from deep as a Knick). But he has given us little reason to doubt him so far.

On the plus side, the Knicks own Hart’s Bird rights, so they will have an opportunity to lock him down even if he does opt out of his current deal. Still, the very concept that Hart could end up being just a year-end rental is a rough one for Knicks fans to have to contend with.

Hart Is a Tom Thibodeau Guy, Through & Through

For whatever reason, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau never seemed interested in giving Reddish an opportunity while he was in New York, even as team president Leon Rose parted with a former lottery pick in Kevin Knox and a future first-round pick to acquire him. Whatever issue was present in that situation is clearly not a thing with Hart, however.

Simply put, he’s a Thibodeau-type player.

“The thing I love about what Josh does for the team is, it’s for the team. Everything,” Thibodeau said, via SNY. “There’s a lot of guys who score points in this league, and they really don’t impact winning the way Josh impacts winning. It’s just tough plays, a hustle play, kill yourself to get back [on defense]. We turn it over, sprint back, steal the ball back.

“Plays like that give your team a lot of confidence. It’s a lot of dirty work, but it’s also the glue of your team. It helps you stick together. There’s going to be ups and downs during a game, a season, and those types of guys are the type that help you build a winning culture.”

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