Knicks: What does OG Anunoby’s return mean for Josh Hart?

New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) and forward OG Anunoby (8) chase a loose ball against Brooklyn Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith (28) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As New York Knicks F OG Anunoby’s return is imminent, it is now time to wonder how Josh Hart’s workload will be impacted as the team slowly returns to full strength.

Josh Hart has to play a significantly higher amount of minutes in Anunoby’s absence

In Anunoby’s absence, Hart has assumed the role of starting small forward and has seen a massive jump in minutes played. Since Anunoby went down, Hart is averaging 40.8 minutes played per game, which is the most in the NBA over that span, according to StatMuse.

The increased workload is a result of Hart’s versatility, and he has stepped up given the larger opportunity. In his last 18 games, Hart is averaging 13 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and has seen his three-pointers start to fall with a 34% clip from beyond the arc.

It is unclear if Anunoby will be placed on any sort of minutes restriction once he returns, but if there’s one thing that is nearly guaranteed, it’s that Hart won’t have to play over 40 minutes as frequently.

Hart or Achiuwa will go back to the Knicks’ second unit

Over the past month, the Knicks’ bench unit has mostly consisted of Deuce McBride, Alec Burks, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jericho Sims. Either Hart or Precious Achiuwa will have to slide back to the bench once Anunoby comes back, and head coach Tom Thibodeau will have an interesting decision to make.

He seems to like starting Achiuwa and Isaiah Hartenstein in the frontcourt together for their defense, but offensively it is a spacing nightmare. On the contrary, moving Hart back to the Knicks’ bench could give the second unit more energy and pace as well as more physicality on the defensive side of the ball.

Hart may keep his starting spot for now

However, it probably makes more sense if Achiuwa slots in as the backup center and Hart maintains his starting spot for now. At 6’8”, Anunoby has showcased the ability to guard all five positions, and his presence on the floor will open the court up for Jalen Brunson and company to get cleaner looks.

Achiuwa has shown to be better as a power forward as opposed to center, but having him off the bench will allow Thibodeau to mix and match his rotations and use him in both smaller and taller lineups.

Regardless, Hart will still play a significant chunk of minutes as Julius Randle is still working his way back from injury. Once he is able to return to the Knicks’ lineup, a clearer picture of Hart’s role will come. Provided there are no restrictions on Anunoby, expect him to take over some of the significant minutes Hart has been getting over the past month.

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