Josh Hart’s game is one that is hard to box into a conventional style. He’s a great rebounding guard that is an above average defender and has a knack for getting to his nearly unstoppable Euro-step in transition. Yet he is also severely lacking in some of the other more traditional skills that tend to get players paid in this league. This makes measuring Hart’s skill, importance, impact, and success difficult at times.
Take a look at his defense and the lineup data and he looks amazing. He’s 39th in the league in defensive box plus/minus this season and take a look at the Knicks’ most successful lineups this season and you’ll see Hart’s name consistently be included in almost all of them. But take a look at some of the more traditional stats and you start to see a bunch of holes and weaknesses in his game.
Earlier this season, in November, we took a look at Hart’s offensive numbers and they were far from pretty. At the time, through 14 games, Hart was averaging just 7.1 PPG on an ugly 41.4/29.5/71.4 slash-line and while nobody realistically though that he’d shoot the way he did when he first joined the Knicks, there were hopes that he’d regain his footing and improve his offense. Well, I’m here to report that in the 26 games since then, it’s been a pretty mixed bag.
Overall, the percentages are better across the board. During that span, Hart holds a 45.6/34.3/81.5 slash-line but is still just averaging 7 PPG on just six shots per game. That puts his overall season average at 7.2 PPG with a 44.0/32.4/79.4 slash-line, with his field goal percentage and three-point percentages both being 2% lower than his career percentages.
Some of this is on Hart’s teammates and Tom Thibodeau for pigeonholing Hart to a role where he isn’t always put in the best position to succeed. Way too often is Hart cast aside as a spot up shooter when in reality, he needs to be let loose and free to cause havoc on fastbreaks and play more as a roll man and cutter. And the fact that he’s also playing the least amount of minutes per game since his third year in the league likely doesn’t help since he’s seemed like a rhythm player.
That being said, Hart has to find a way to be more effective and impactful offensively. His hustle, energy, defense, and rebounding are all incredibly valuable skills he brings to the table and the Knicks have overall still benefited positively from his acquisition, but the Knicks, and their fans, need and should expect more from a player who is set to make over $20 million per year starting next season.
He doesn’t need to shoot 50% from three like he did to finish last season, and he never will, and he doesn’t need to average 15+ PPG like a traditional Immanuel Quickley-esque sixth man. But if New York wants to secure home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and make any kind of noise in the postseason, they’ll need Hart to shoot a bit better from three, stop turning down wide open shots so frequently, and continue finding ways to impact the game more offensively.
Again, I need to reiterate that the Knicks don’t need him to be an elite scoring threat because that’s not his game and that’s not why they brought him in or extended him. And he does plenty of other things well that bring good value to the team. That being said, right now, there are just way too many games where you look up and you see that he has less than seven or eight points and with the minutes he is getting, the Knicks need him to be at least a bit more effective, and aggressive on the offensive end.