Hart-felt impact: Josh Hart pumps life to Knicks bench

Josh Hart, New York Knicks

In 2021, the New York Knicks pulled off a midseason trade for Derrick Rose that sparked a strong 24-11 finish leading to their first playoff appearance in eight years.

Two years later, the Knicks made another trade deadline deal that is quickly shaping up to have the same impact.

Before the All-Star break, the Knicks have rattled three straight wins since acquiring Josh Hart for three out-of-rotation players and a lottery-protected pick. His contributions have been ‘Hart-felt.’

The Knicks’ bench was bleeding for only 29.1 points, 26th in the league, before Hart’s arrival. Since then, Hart has catapulted their second unit to the top of the league.

Over their last three wins, the Knicks’ bench averaged 43.3 points per game, with their net rating (from +0.9 to +8.5) and 3-point shooting percentage (32.8% to 46.3%) jumping up.

In that span, Hart scored 17 points per game in 26 minutes off the bench on a ridiculous 64.3 percent from behind the arc. His scoring production is tied for fifth in the league among bench players in that span.

That shooting mark won’t likely stay. But his grit and hustle will be a constant.

Hart is also churning out 1.7 steals and grabbing 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 off the defensive glass.

The Knicks are 3.1-point stingier on defense when Hart is on the court. His 29.5 on/off net rating differential tops the team.

Even Quentin Grimes, who lost some playing time to Hart, was singing his praises.

“I think just the mentality we had coming in the last three games,” Grimes said when asked about their winning steak after the Rising Stars game. “We knew they were all winnable games for us.”

“We got a nice addition, and Josh Hart really helped us out defensively,” added Grimes unprompted. “[Hart] brings a lot of energy. So we really had a good plan and got a lot of good chemistry going on right now.”

Grimes averaged 32 minutes as a starter and closer since Tom Thibodeau shortened his rotation on Dec. 4 until Hart’s acquisition. Over his last three games, Grimes’ playing time decreased to 22.9 minutes per game, with Hart closing out games.

There were also instances when Miles McBride, the player Hart supplanted in the rotation, was seen communicating with the newcomer over the defensive game plan from the bench.

“I think everyone can be willing to sacrifice for the team,” Thibodeau said after their impressive wire-to-wire, road win in Atlanta before the All-Star break.

Hart has pumped life to the Knicks’ sagging bench, not only on offense but also at the other end. And with Mitchell Robinson expected to return, the Knicks are about to get better defensively for the stretch run.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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