Knicks gain key financial flexibility thanks to Josh Hart’s decision to opt-in

After weeks of speculation about Josh Hart declining his $12.9 million player option for 2023-24 to become an unrestricted free agent, the 28-year-old opted in. Hart originally had a deadline of this past Saturday to decide on his option, but he and the New York Knicks agreed to extend the deadline to Thursday.

Hart closed the 2022-23 season out with the Knicks after being traded from the Trail Blazers. He averaged 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists while shooting 58.6% from the field and 51.9% from three in the 25 regular season games in New York.

It didn’t take long for Knicks fans to get attached to the idea of Hart being in the city long-term, and because he opted in, he can sign a new deal as soon as this summer.

When will Josh Hart be eligible to sign an extension with Knicks?

Josh Hart will be eligible to sign an extension worth up to four years, $81 million on August 9, six months after he was traded from Portland. Before opting in, it was thought that he’d sign a deal as a free agent in the four-year, $70-$75 million range. Although he’ll be making less than he was expected to in 2023-24, Hart will essentially be on a five-year contract if he signs an extension, which would kick in at the start of the 2024-25 season.

Hart did the Knicks a favor by opting in because New York will now have access to the full $12.4 million midlevel exception, which could be used to add another Villanova guard into the mix. Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer reported on Tuesday that the belief is that Donte DiVincenzo will sign with the Knicks. He declined his $4.7 million option for next season with the Warriors.

Moving forward, New York is still expected to shed salary whether it be with an Obi Toppin or Evan Fournier (maybe even both).

For now, Josh Hart is locked into only the 2023-24 season with the Knicks, but in a little over a month, that could change.