3 Reasons Isaiah Hartenstein could become Knicks’ dark horse starter

Isaiah Hartenstein , New York Knicks (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Isaiah Hartenstein , New York Knicks (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /
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Opening night of the 2022-23 NBA season for the New York Knicks was a fun one. The Knicks would fall 115-112 in overtime to the Memphis Grizzlies in Ja Morant’s house. It was the first time Knicks fans got to see the trio of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Jalen Brunson in a regular season game. Randle looked back to his 2020-21 form, Brunson was solid and steady, and Barrett struggled.

One very bright spot for the Knicks on opening night was the play of big man Isaiah Hartenstein. Hartenstein signed a two-year deal worth around $17 million in the offseason. The 24-year-old big man was brought in to back up Knicks starting center Mitchell Robinson.

Coming off the bench in his assumed role, Hartenstein turned heads in his performance against Memphis. Playing 40 minutes, he scored 16 points on 7/11 shooting and had eight rebounds along with four assists and one block.

Here are three reasons Hartenstein could soon find his name in the starting lineup and have a breakout season:

1. Hartenstein has the ability to score when needed

It sounds simple enough, but Isaiah Hartenstein has an offensive game that can improve as the season goes on. For a Knicks team that has had trouble putting up points in recent years, he could find a nice and needed role on this team. Last season, Hartenstein appeared in 68 games for the LA Clippers, playing around 17 minutes per game. He managed to score at least 10 points in 30 of 68 games and only took 10 or more shots in three games all season. Most games, he would see minutes in the mid to slightly below 20’s.

He would shoot a solid 62.6% from the field last season on 5.4 field goals attempted per game. The Clippers favored big man Ivica Ivica Zubac over Hartenstein last season. Zubac saw 24.4 minutes per game compared to Hartenstein’s 17.9. Despite the six-minute increase, Zubac only averaged two more points per game (10.3 to 8.3).

Isaiah Hartenstein has shown the ability to score the ball when given an opportunity. His per 36 points average would’ve came out to 16.7 last season. His per 100 possessions looked even more promising, putting up 22.7 points per game. It is highly unlikely he will see his minutes around that total, but the projections work in his favor and suggest he could be a legitimate offensive threat. He has good hands and can run the floor well.

Not much of a three point shooter, it’s something he is trying to work on. Through six games in a Knicks uniform (four preseason, two regular season) he is 4/16 from three. What is encouraging is his willingness to at least shoot from the outside. The makes will come with more reps and comfortableness from range. Hartenstein made 14/30 (46.7%) three-point attempts for the Clippers last season.

If the Knicks can keep feeding Hartenstein the ball, he should continue to put it in the basket at an efficient rate.