The New York Knicks’ trade for veteran forward Josh Hart on February 8 earned praise from the media, including from a former Brooklyn Nets standout turned ESPN analyst.
“Josh Hart [in my opinion] is a piece that can help you get to the 2nd rd,” Richard Jefferson tweeted.
Getting to the second round (the conference semifinals) isn’t something many teams hope to have as their ceiling, but it’d be big for the Knicks to at least get out of the first round. The Knicks have advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs only once since 2000, in 2013. Overall since 2000, New York has missed the postseason 16 times, including last year.
The Knicks traded Reddish, Svi Mykhailiuk and Ryan Arcidiacono along with a protected first-round pick to acquire Hart, a 27-year-old who averaged 9.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in 33.4 minutes a game. In the end, it was three players who weren’t in the rotation for somebody who likely will make an instant impact.
For the Knicks, the path to a playoff spot might’ve gotten easier, not just because of their trade for Hart but also the trade deadline deals made by their crosstown rival.
Brooklyn Nets Trade Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving
The Knicks, winners of two in a row, currently hold the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify for a spot in the play-in tournament. At 30-26, they are 3.5 games behind the fifth-place Brooklyn Nets (33-22), who may start sliding in the standings after trading away their two biggest stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“Brooklyn is essentially starting over as a franchise,” according to a February 9 story by FiveThirtyEight’s Jared Rubin, and the Nets now have “very little in the way of shot creation” without their two biggest offensive stars. Still, the short-handed Nets managed to beat the Chicago Bulls 116-105 hours after the trade deadline passed.
Hart is expected to be a good fit with head coach Tom Thibodeau because of his defense and rebounding ability, according to CBS Sports’ Jack Maloney.
“Hart is perhaps the ideal player for a Tom Thibodeau team,” Maloney wrote in a story grading the trade. “He’s a hard-nosed defender who will always put in effort on that side of the ball, guards multiple positions, works hard on the glass and stays inside his role. Part of the downside of Thibodeau’s rigid style is that some players either aren’t interested in playing that way or take time to adjust; that won’t be the case for Hart, who will help beef up the Knicks’ wing rotation.”
He has struggled with his 3-point shot (30.4% on 2.2 attempts per game) but can still chip in. “If he can get back up [to his 34.3% career average], it will be a big boost for the Knicks,” Maloney wrote.
Hart likely slot in as a role player with the team instead of entering the starting lineup.
“I love Hart as the seventh man for the Knicks along with the dynamic Quickley, and Hart should give the Knicks real lineup flexibility,” wrote The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie.
Jalen Brunson Is Ecstatic
The Knicks’ top player, Jalen Brunson, appeared to be pleased about the news that the Knicks had added Hart. He was visiting his alma mater, Villanova, for a February 8 ceremony where the school retired his jersey number when he got the news his former college teammate was being traded to the New York.
“Oh s***,” he yelled upon seeing the news.