The story of the 2022-23 New York Knicks cannot be written without Josh Hart playing a major role.
Sitting at a respectable 30-27 record, the Knicks decided to get busy at the trade deadline. Who was that one piece that could really contribute right away without making massive changes to the roster? That answer would be Josh Hart, one of Jalen Brunsons’ closest friends and former teammates at Villanova University.
The 30th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Hart has had an interesting career that is worth unpacking.
Early Lakers years:
On the 2017-18 young Los Angeles Lakers, he would average 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game. The last pick in the first round would appear in 63 games, starting in 23 of them. Los Angeles finished with a 35-47 record, missing the playoffs.
The arrival of Lebron James on the Lakers before the 2018-19 season was the beginning of the end for this young Lakers nucleus. Hart averaged basically the same stats just with slightly worse percentages and played two more minutes per game. Lebron would only play in 55 games that season and the Lakers once again missed the playoffs with a 37-45 record.
Summer 2019 is when there would be a massive change in the NBA landscape. The Lakers would trade away their young pieces to bring in Lebron James’ preferred target, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans have agreed to a deal to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks – including the No. 4 overall in 2019 Draft, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2019
The 24-year-old Josh Hart was on his way to New Orleans for a new beginning after two seasons in Los Angeles.
Josh Hart called New Orleans home for the next two and a half seasons. With increased playing time and usage, Hart would start to find his footing in the NBA. In 153 career games for the Pelicans, he averaged 10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and a steal in just under 30 minutes per game.
On February 8th, 2022, Hart would be moved again. This time he was sent from the Pelicans to Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for a package centered around guard CJ McCollum. Playing 13 games with the Blazers, Hart thrived and averaged 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 32.1 minutes. During that stretch, he would shoot over 50 percent on his field goal attempts. The team went 4-9 during those 13 games but Hart was showing he had more offense to his game. This was now his third team in five seasons and he was still looking for his first taste of playoff basketball. The playoff wait continued as Portland finished with a 27-55 record.
Coming off his great end to the 2021-22 season, Hart was named a starter going into the 2022-23 season. His main role was to play defense, rebound, and hustle, all aspects of the game he takes pride in. The first 51 games of Josh Hart’s 2022-23 season were spent with the Blazers. He would average 9.5 points, 8.2, 3.9 assists, and 1.1 steals in 33.4 minutes per game. With a +124 plus/minus, Hart finished as the highest positive on the Blazers this season.
Welcome to New York:
As has been a theme in Josh Hart’s career, he was once again on the move, this time to New York. The Knicks would trade Cam Reddish, Svi Mykhailiuk, Ryan Arcidiacono, and a protected first-round pick for the hustle-minded Hart.
Shifting to a role off the bench (at least to start games), Hart made an immediate impact. His Knicks debut would start in Madison Square Garden against the Utah Jazz. Hart had a full stat line with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals in 26 minutes of action. More importantly, he entered the game with 4:26 left in the third quarter and played the rest of the game.
Knicks fans were able to feel Hart’s impact immediately after a productive debut:
New York started to take off after acquiring Hart and won nine straight games. A team that was 30-27 and likely looking at a record around or a few games above .500 was all of a sudden 39-27. The Villanova product helped bring an extra edge that was needed and coach Tom Thibodeau trusted him right away.
Following the Jazz win, Hart put up 27 points in front of an electric MSG crowd to beat the cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets:
Overall, the Knicks would go 17-8 after making the trade and finish fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 47-35 record. On his fourth team in his sixth season, Josh Hart would finally get to play postseason basketball.
Josh Hart only started one of 25 regular season games with the Knicks. He averaged 10.2 points, seven rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals in 30 minutes of game time. According to StatMuse, Hart averaged 10.7 fourth-quarter minutes per game in the regular season in a Knicks uniform. He was also a +59 total in the fourth quarter, his play translated to wins.
Hart’s Knicks playoff debut got off to a hot start when he scored 17 points and grabbed ten rebounds in the Game One win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would play 33 minutes and hit 8/11 field goals.
After the blowout Game Two loss, Hart contributed in Game Three and then was key in Game Four, scoring 19 points and helping the Knicks to a 3-1 series lead. His hustle was on full display in this game, a perfect example of why the Knicks made the move to bring him aboard.
In the Game Five series clinching win, he played 47 minutes and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Hart had a tough second round series against the Miami Heat.
His best game of the series was his near triple double in the Game Two victory to even the series:
He followed that with a 15 points, 12 rebound performance in the Game Three loss. Game Four would only see him play 22 minutes and Game Five he was limited to 9 minutes due to injuries. In the final game of New York’s season, Hart scored 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds in 33 minutes.
The Josh Hart trade was nothing but a success and the Knicks front office should take a bow for that. New York was able to flip players who who had no use on the Knicks into someone who played 47 minutes in a closeout series win. Hart was a huge part of the Knicks getting their first playoff series win in ten years. He also greatly elevated the team and helped pushed them from a likely play-in team to a top five seed. Despite it only being his first playoffs, Hart is the type of winning player that every team wants in terms of hustle, defense, and competitive drive.
It will be fun to have him on the team for a full season and he just has those games where he can pop. Hart making an All-Defensive team next season is very much in the cards. Alongside his best friend Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart should be in a Knicks uniform for years to come.
Screaming at Josh Hart singing Don't Stop Believin' pic.twitter.com/ihDVEuyUcx— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) April 23, 2023
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