How will the Knicks adapt if Josh Hart were to miss Game 2?

Josh Hart Knicks
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Darius Garland is defended by New York Knicks’ Josh Hart during the first half of Game 1 in a first-round NBA basketball playoffs series Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Nick Cammett)

After welcoming Julius Randle back from a sprained ankle just in time for Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the New York Knicks are now forced to deal with another ankle injury as Josh Hart has been listed as doubtful for Game 2 following an ankle sprain in the final minutes of Saturday’s game. 

Even though Hart is not a starter for the Knicks, losing him for Game 2 would be a monumental loss for the team. Hart was 29th in the NBA in Wins Above Replacement with 7.3 and was 20th in the league in plus/minus among players who appeared in over 60 games, posting a 4.1 rate.

In Game 1, he had 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 33 minutes. Everything he brings to the table fits perfectly with Cleveland’s weaknesses. 

Right after Hart was traded to the Knicks, he said, “I’m a guy that’s gonna be physical. I’m a guy that’s gonna do the dirty work. Gonna rebound, gonna defend. Get on the floor for a loose ball and do those kinds of things.”

That physicality was on display in Game 1 and was a key reason that Hart was able to bully his way to five offensive rebounds. With Immanuel Quickley struggling off the bench and no Knicks starter other than Mitchell Robinson shooting above 50% from the court, Hart was instrumental in cleaning up his teammate’s misses, playing that “dirty work” role to perfection to the point where Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen even mentioned Hart by name as a reason Cleveland struggled to rebound in Game 1

Josh Hart in his Knicks debut
New York Knicks guard Josh Hart watches warmups before the team’s NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

While it’s not a given that Hart will miss the game given his competitiveness, and the Knicks actually upgraded him to questionable a few hours after this article first ran, it’s still important to look at what the team will do if Hart does miss Game 2. 

For starters, more is going to fall on the shoulders of Quickley off of the bench. He has struggled a bit versus the Cavaliers this season, averaging just 10.5 points in 25.2 minutes per game. In Game 1, he failed to make a single shot from the floor, but without Hart, he will likely play the most minutes of any bench player and needs to bring some of the energy/play-making that Hart usually does. 

Quickley and Quentin Grimes will also have to handle a larger share of the perimeter defense responsibilities on Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Without Hart to rotate in off the bench, Grimes will likely be asked to play the bulk of the time on Mitchell, and while “Spida” will certainly get his points, Grimes has to keep him from taking over the game. 

It would also make sense for Miles McBride to take Hart’s spot in the rotation since he is the Knicks’ best perimeter defender. Even though he is not the player Hart is on offense, McBride could be a valuable asset to the Knicks if he’s able to spell Grimes and Quickley for a few minutes at a time and guard either Mitchell or Garland. 

McBride has also been streaky offensively, with a few strong shooting nights over the past few months, so it’s possible his shot could be falling. Even if it’s not, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau can play McBride with sh0t-creators like Julius Randle and Quickley to offset the lack of offensive firepower. 

More bench minutes could also fall to Obi Toppin, who was tremendous in his minutes on Saturday, hitting two shots from beyond the arc and getting the Knicks going in transition. While Toppin brings the same energy and fastbreak prowess that Hart does, he is still a work in progress defensively, so Thibodeau needs to be cautious with the lineups he uses Toppin in. As a result, it’s unlikely we see Toppin leaned on too heavily to replace Hart. 

At the end of the day, this could be just another opportunity for the Knicks to showcase their depth as they did when Robinson, Randle, and Jalen Brunson all missed time during the regular season. It’s a time that has proven its resolve and depth numerous times. 

Just not yet on a stage this big. 

For more Knicks coverage, visit amNY Sports


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