The Knicks love players from Villanova. Now they’ve locked up another Wildcat long term.
New York traded for Josh Hart in February, and he quickly became an integral part of the team. While he only started one game, he closed most contests. In his 25 games, the Knicks were a whopping 15.9 points better per 100 possessions when Hart was on the floor, improved on both the offensive and defensive ends. The trade was a huge reason why New York won its first playoff series in a decade.
Hart joined his college teammate, Jalen Brunson, on the Knicks. The two won a national championship together in 2016, and when Brunson learned the Knicks traded for Hart — at a Villanova game no less — he had a delighted, profane reaction to the news.
In fact, the Knicks’ last three big acquisitions have all been from that 2016 title team. They gave a four-year contract to Donte DiVincenzo this summer, who also won a national title in 2018 alongside Brunson, winning Most Outstanding Player after a red-hot title game performance. DiVincenzo was a freshman on the 2016 squad.
Hart’s contract decisions this summer enabled the Knicks to add his Wildcats teammate as well. By opting in to his contract for this season, at just under $13 million, he allowed New York the cap space to offer DiVincenzo the full mid-level exception.
Once Hart declined to become a free agent, it became extremely likely he’d sign an extension with the Knicks. It became even likelier when he agreed to play for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup, a decision players generally don’t make without having financial security, in case they get hurt.
Then Hart and the Knicks agreed to a four-year deal — for the maximum amount New York could give him on an extension — the earliest he was eligible. (Hart can’t officially sign the new deal until Aug. 10.) Now the Knicks have Brunson, Hart and DiVincenzo all locked up through 2025, with Brunson likely to sign his own extension next summer — he has a player option for 2025-26.
Villanova is only two hours southwest of Midtown Manhattan, and perhaps the Knicks brass did a lot of scouting during the Big East Tournament, which has been held at Madison Square Garden for the last 41 years. Why go on a scouting trip when the prospects come to your building?
Sadly, the Knicks did have to send away Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, in the Hart trade. However, he’s a free agent, and the Knicks could have a roster spot for an additional Wildcat if they ditch one of the non-guaranteed deals for Isaiah Roby or DaQuan Jeffries.
There’s one other member of that Villanova team playing in New York, but it’s very unlikely that the Brooklyn Nets would ever let Mikal Bridges go to their crosstown rival. However, he’s close enough to get lunch with all of his college buddies — and the 2/3 trains leave Penn Station for Brooklyn every four minutes.