Newly signed free agent center Isaiah Hartenstein will thrive with the Knicks

The New York Knicks wasted no time making a splash when the 2022 NBA free agency window opened. They agreed to terms (four years, $104 million) with their top target Jalen Brunson, who the franchise had reshaped their roster in order to pursue. The club also retained standout center Mitchell Robinson on a four-year, $60 million deal on Friday.

However, in the chaos of free agency, the Knicks were able to land another noteworthy talent to their roster: former Clippers center Isaiah Hartenstein.

Free agent Isaiah Hartenstein fits in well with the New York Knicks

While this move does not carry the same headline quality as the other two additions, Hartenstein will prove to be an on-court difference-maker in NYC. Here’s why:

The Skillset

Make no mistake about it, Hartenstein is one of the most underrated big men in the league. While casual fans are likely unfamiliar with the journeyman, those who have seen him in action know his value and potential.

First of all, Hartenstein is a superb defender. Not good. Not great. Superb!

A recent New York Post article outlined the fact that the former Clipper averages 3.1 blocked shots per 100 possessions (good for the ninth-best mark in the league). Additionally, players he matched up against made just 47.5% of their attempts at the rim (which was the lowest percentage in the league).

Hartenstein is also a capable offensive weapon, particularly in the paint. Over the past two seasons, the German-American has averaged 8.3 points per game in just 17.9 minutes.

He’s a great athlete with the ability to finish above the rim, particularly when playing with a passer who can take advantage of his size and cutting ability. Past versions of the Knicks were lacking a true point guard. However, the addition of Brunson could help bring out the best in Hartenstein.

Imagine Brunson attacking the rim with the seven-foot tall, 250-pound Hartenstein trailing. It could look something like this. Or this.

For the record, I do not buy Hartenstein as a legitimate threat as an outside shooter. Too much has been made of his career 38% 3-point shooting mark, without considering he only attempts 0.3 threes per game.

While this skillset could be improved if given the green light to shoot, fans should expect the newest Knick to do his damage around the rim.

The New York Fit

The skills listed above make Hartenstein an ideal fit on the current Knicks roster. If he is already one of the very best defenders off the bench, imagine how coach Tom Thibodeau can help him thrive.

The passing infusion of Brunson, combined with talented passers such as Derrick Rose (4 assists per game in 2022) and Julius Randle (5.1 assists per game) will also aid his offensive game.

Additionally, Hartenstein joins the Knicks’ roster with a legitimate need in the frontcourt. Lost in the Brunson excitement is the fact that New York lost notable bench pieces Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks to the Pistons in a cap clearing move. This leaves just Taj Gibson and Jericho Sims behind a notoriously injury-prone Robinson.

The Knicks need Hartenstein to be ready to play his biggest NBA role yet, as he and highflier Obi Toppin will serve as the two primary big men off the bench. Thankfully, he is poised to be more than up for the challenge.

The Projections

I am comfortable going on the record and predicting that Hartenstein will have his best career season in orange and blue. Here’s my projected stat line for the 2022-2023 campaign:

12.7 points per game, 1.3 blocks per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 2.9 assists per game, and 22.5 minutes per game on 64% shooting. All of these (sans the shooting percentage) would be career marks.

There is also a likelihood that his combination of rim protection and athleticism quickly earns the respect of the fans at MSG. Expect Hartenstein to become a fan favorite off the bench as he thrives under the New York spotlight.