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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Knicks Land Another Villanova Wildcat

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Last summer, the New York Knicks signed Donte DiVincenzo to a four-year deal sparking one of the most intriguing stories in the NBA. With this addition, the Knicks became home to three former starters from the 2016 Villanova NCAA championship roster. DiVincenzo joined star point guard Jalen Brunson and “glue guy” Josh Hart as the third Villanova Wildcat to play for New York.

The “Nova Knicks,” as they were coined, went on to have a terrific season. They surprised everyone after earning the second seed in the East and defeating the 76ers in round one of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Sadly, the season came to an end in the second round as the Knicks fell victim to the injury bug and lost to the Indiana Pacers in Game 7.

Despite the disappointing ending, the former Wildcats all became fan favorites after having career years. Brunson earned All-NBA second team while being a legitimate MVP candidate. Hart and DiVincenzo became elite role players who could take over games at any point.

Heading into the offseason, there were many questions surrounding New York. Thankfully, these were all answered as the Knicks made the first big splash of the summer.

On Wednesday, June 26, the Knicks made a blockbuster trade for the star forward from the Brooklyn Nets, Mikal Bridges. He joins Brunson, Hart, and DiVincenzo now as the fourth former Villanova Wildcat from that 2016 roster. The “Nova Knicks” now holds the title for the most college teammates from any NCAA Championship team to take the court on the same NBA team.

As great as that is, it’s not even the best part. Bridges is a terrific player who will instantly improve both the offense and defense for the Knicks. This addition genuinely makes them contenders in the Eastern Conference next season.

Last season with Brooklyn, he averaged 19.6 points, 3.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1 steal per game while shooting 43.6% from the field and 37.2% from three-point range. Bridges also played all 82 games for the Nets, something he’s done every year as he now holds the active record for most consecutive games played since being drafted. He even played 83 games in the 2022-23 season when he was traded to Brooklyn.

This durability and efficiency combined with his elite offensive and defensive traits makes for a dangerous addition to a Knicks lineup that was already extremely talented. His presence alone lightens the load that Brunson had to carry when the rest of the team was injured last season.

However, trading for such a talented player usually comes at a price, and with the Knicks there were a few problems that came from this move. New York gave up five first round picks in the deal, something that may be detrimental for their future. If the Knicks don’t win a championship they absolutely lose this trade.

Another concern was the impact this trade had on key rotation players OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein who both were free agents this offseason and were expecting a major contract. Half of this issue was solved as the Knicks also managed to re-sign Anunoby for five years creating one of the best wing duos in the league.

On the other hand, the Knicks were forced to give up Hartenstein who ended up being their starting center at the end of last season and into the playoffs. He recently inked a three-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, ending his tenure in New York.

Despite these losses, fans should still be excited for this upcoming season. Bridges is the perfect fit for New York and a title is within reach.

“The vibes here are at an all-time high,” said Colin Manning, a Madison Square Garden Employee from Commack. “Everybody is excited for next season. I look forward to seeing him shine at the Garden this year.”

And for Villanova fans, it’ll be nice to see all four of the Wildcats step on the court in 2024. The “Nova Knicks” will certainly be one of the most entertaining teams to watch as they try to repeat the history they made in college.

James Haupt
James Haupt
James Haupt is The Messenger Papers' weekly Sports Reporter and Staff Writer, covering everything from local little leagues to professional sports teams. James is also a full-time college student at Villanova University majoring in Journalism.