1: Stepping up in the playoffs
When the 28-year-old first arrived in New York, he had yet to make a postseason appearance in his career. With the Knicks quickly heading towards a trajectory that would have them playing more than 82 games, there were questions about how Hart would look in an intense atmosphere.
He answered those quickly, becoming one of the main reasons why the Knicks defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games to win their first playoff series in a decade.
Hart averaged 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 56% from the field, routinely dominating Cleveland’s tall frontcourt of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen on the glass. He also hit one of the biggest shots of the season, a pull-up three with just under two minutes left to help the Knicks steal game one on the road.
His offensive output dipped in the second round against the Miami Heat, averaging just 9.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. This can partially be credited to the lineups he was playing in, as Thibodeau leaned heavily on the Barrett-Hart duo, which never truly worked, given the pair’s below-average shooting.
It’s also worth noting that he was the primary defender of Miami superstar Jimmy Butler for most of the Heat series and did a respectable job, which may have sapped some of his energy on offense. Butler shot just 9-for-24 (37.5%) from the field and 0-for-3 from behind the arc when guarded by Hart, according to NBA Advanced Stats Player Tracking.
Although his shooting prowess as a Knick finally came back down to earth against Miami, it’s still not enough of a concern moving forward to pass on offering him a new deal.
Josh Hart’s persistent motor, staunch defense, and animated celebrations have endeared him to Knicks fans since day one. He’s done more than enough to warrant a contract extension, which the team’s front office shouldn’t regret one bit.