A few months ago, the Knicks were in a position to add some young talent in the offseason with at least one pick guaranteed in the 2023 draft. But after trading away their own first-round pick in a deal for Josh Hart and losing out on the Mavericks’ pick, they currently stand pick-less heading into the offseason. Hart was a valuable player this season but his performance down the stretch and the lack of first-round picks begs the question: Was trading for Hart worth it?
With how the season ended, both for the Knicks and for Hart, it can be tempting to point out all the negatives in Hart. The veteran wing struggled mightily in the Knicks’ six game series against the Heat, averaging 9.3 PPG, 7 RPG, and 2.8 APG on 41.5% from the field. And his counting stats don’t even tell the whole story. Hart, who is known as both a reluctant and subpar outside shooter, was played off the court at times due to his inability to help space the floor for Jalen Brunson. The former Villanova Wildcat still had some really nice moments during the series but most fans are likely to remember just how detrimental he was on offense with his lack of shooting and tendency to turn the ball over at inopportune times in transition.
That being said, Hart was instrumental in getting the Knicks to the second round in the first place. In Hart’s first nine games, the Knicks went undefeated and New York ended up finishing 17-7 in their last 24 games. And in those games, Hart, who quickly won over the Knicks fanbase with his hustle, energy, defense, rebounding, and clutch shot making, averaged 10.2 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.6 APG, and 1.4 SPG on 58.6% from the field and 51.9% from three.
And while his series against the Heat left a bitter taste in all our mouths, we have to remember that he still played a big part in the Knicks first round victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Filling in for the injured Quentin Grimes, Hart, started two games and over the course of the five game series, he averaged 11.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, and 1.2 SPG on 56.1% shooting and 45.5% from three.
Miami certainly exposed weaknesses in Hart’s game. That cannot and will not be denied. And Hart, as I’m sure he’d tell you himself, could have played better. But that does not make Hart a bad player, and it definitely does not make the Hart deal a bad one. Hart had a less-than-ideal matchup, while playing against one of, if not, the best coaches in the league but against the majority of the league, Hart is still an incredibly valuable and useful player to have, and one series does not change that, especially when you consider what the Knicks gave up.
Certain factions of Knicks fans may have rather dreamt of what a fully unleashed Cam Reddish may have look like and other factions may have wanted to cook up mock drafts, thinking about what kind of young asset the Knicks could have brought in. But the fact is Reddish wasn’t going to get on the court as a Knick again, and whoever would’ve been drafted late in the first round likely wouldn’t see much playing time either. And sure there is the fact that the Knicks will likely now have to pay some decent money to retain Hart. But overall, Hart, even as the flawed player that he is, is a player that can be of great value to a Knicks team that is now closer to contending than they have been in a very very very long time.
It would have been nice to have a pick to look forward to in this year’s draft. And it would have been nice if Hart didn’t end what was otherwise a very strong season on a negative note. But the Knicks and their fans should have zero regrets about the acquisition of an ego-less, team-first, defending, rebounding, wing that is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Even if it means giving out a lengthy contract and having zero picks this summer.