Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Four Knicks Unsung Heroes Who Are Major Catalyst For Team Success

Knicks Star Jalen Brunson Has One Thing on His Mind: 'Win' (Exclusive)

Jalen Brunson is undoubtedly the New York Knicks’ most impactful player. Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson are probably their next most important players. And while Brunson continues to aggressively impact winning night in and night out, the other three have made a combined three appearances in New York’s last 24 games.

Still, the Knicks are succeeding. Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Miles “Deuce” McBride deserve much of the credit.

To be fair, the Knicks struggled without Randle, Robinson, and Anunoby until recently. Specifically, after losing Randle and Anunoby on January 27, they won only 6 of their next 14 games — and things looked bleak.

But then their role players began to figure things out, and New York has won seven of their last 10 games. And that’s with only three appearances from Anunoby (and none from Randle and Robinson).

Let’s take a closer look at exactly how DiVincenzo, Hartenstein, McBride, and Hart have stepped up, and how they’ve kept the Knicks afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

DiVincenzo looks better as a starter

DiVincenzo is probably New York’s biggest breakout star this season. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. And he’s played considerably better since entering the team’s starting lineup — which is his first time as a regular starter since the 2020-21 season. He’s averaged 16.8 points 3.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game since entering the starting lineup on December 8. 

DiVincenzo embodies much of the attitude and approach appreciated by Knicks’ fans. He’s a high motor player who speaks his mind. He can get red hot at times, evidenced by his five-30 point (or more) games this season. He is scrappy and skilled, and he pushes back when opponents try taunting or physically intimidating him or his teammates.

New York clearly needs DiVincenzo to continue playing at this level to maximize their potential. He scores without dominating the ball and spreads the floor. He’s also an above-average defender and  playmaker, who just so happens to be on a bargain four year, $46.7 million deal.

Hartenstein’s Achilles tendon is the only thing holding him back

Hartenstein looked unstoppable in January, but an Achilles injury interfered with his otherwise stellar season. He looked less explosive and increasingly unsure of himself for much of February. But it looks like that’s a thing of the past.  

Despite remaining on a minutes restriction due to the injury, Hartenstein is averaging 13.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in only 25.9 minutes per game across the Knicks’ last five games. Ultimately, he looks very close to being back at full strength. He’s challenging dunkers at the rim, finishing strongly and confidently around the basket, and rebounding the heck out of basketball. 

It was assumed that Hartenstein was a luxury before Robinson’s ankle injury in mid-December. Now, it’s unclear which of the two big men is the long-term starter. And for what it’s worth, Robinson said he’s willing to come off the bench when he returns, according to The Athletic’s Fred Katz.

Regardless which of the star centers starts, having both should benefit New York against the more skilled front courts in the playoffs.

McBride has taken advantage of his opportunity

McBride played infrequently before the Anunoby trade in late December. But the team was obviously confident in his ability, as they were willing to part ways with the up-and-coming Immanuel Quickley in the deal. It was assumed that Quickley was the only other lead guard on the roster before the trade, but that was obviously untrue.

New York smartly signed McBride to a three-year, $13 million deal immediately after the trade. McBride immediately responded, serving as Brunson’s primary backup.

Coach Tom Thibodeau recently doubled down on McBride’s responsibilities, inserting him into a small ball starting lineup three games ago — and McBride delivered again. He’s averaging 22.0 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.0 steal in 46.2 minutes per game in the Knicks’ last three games. He’s connecting on 63% on his three-point attempts in that span, and he played all 48 minutes on Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets.

It’s unlikely that McBride can continue playing 40 or more minutes per game, and it’s equally unlikely that he keeps shooting as well as he has. Regardless, he will probably regret signing that extension given how well he’s played since entering the rotation.

Either way, the 23 year-old gives the Knicks another strong backcourt defender and another offensive weapon. And he allows the Knicks to go even deeper into their bench, which is an important attribute of most teams that make deep postseason runs.

Hart has adjusted nicely to playing major minutes

Hart has been a regular contributor all season long, but he appeared to be slowing down as the team approached the All-Star break. Much of that had to do with logging more minutes in early February due to the absence of Anunoby and Randle.

But something clicked for Hart following the All-Star break. He’s averaging 13.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in a mind-blowing 42.4 minutes per game across 15 games since February 22. He’s accumulated five triple doubles since late January, after having none in his entire career before then.

Hart is obviously in great shape, as his contributions have increased since being asked to play longer minutes. He is an incredibly dangerous finisher in transition and among the most lethal players in the league at pushing the ball up the floor. He possesses a seemingly endless motor, and his ability to play such heavy minutes makes him all the more valuable to Coach Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks. 

Recently, New York has won by virtue of a balanced attack. DiVincenzo and McBride’s shooting and playmaking and Hart and Hartenstein’s rebounding and tenacity perfectly compliment Brunson’s game. Granted, getting Anunoby, Randle, and/or Robinson back will help a lot.

But if the Knicks make a deep playoff run, it will have a lot to do with the team’s depth and, specifically, the aforementioned four Knicks and their respective contributions.

Related Posts

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.