Is there a better backup center in the league than Isaiah Hartenstein? The answer to that question is no. He's dominated for the New York Knicks since the crushing news that starting center Mitchell Robinson is expected to be out for the season.
This past week, Hartenstein blocked Rudy Gobert not once, twice, but three times in the Knicks' win over the Timberwolves. He followed that up with a career-high 20 rebounds in New York's victory against Chicago.
The worst-case scenario for the Knicks was losing Robinson to ankle surgery, but the best-case scenario after that was having Hartenstein slide into the starting lineup.
New York hit three home runs in 2022 free agency by signing Jalen Brunson and Hartenstein while retaining Mitchell Robinson. Hartenstein signed a two-year, $16 million deal and will be an unrestricted free agent again this summer. This go-round, he's going to sign a bigger contract.
Isaiah Hartenstein says he wants to stay with Knicks, but that's unlikely
It's been fantastic to see Isaiah Hartenstein expand his game in Mitchell Robinson's absence, but because he's done so, it means he'll likely be too expensive for New York (subscription required) to keep in the offseason.
"Right now, I’m a New York Knick,” Hartenstein said. “That’s the biggest thing. I feel like, yeah, sometimes you have that in the back of your mind. That’s normal. At the end of the day, I wanna be in New York, but it’s a business."- Via Fred Katz, The Athletic
Hartenstein's playing like he was born to be a Knick, so it's unfortunate he could be in his last half of the season with the team. He deserves to be a starter elsewhere, so unless New York trades Robinson (an unlikely scenario), teams that need a starting center will go after Hartenstein in free agency.
The Athletic's Fred Katz wrote that Hartenstein could command a deal similar to the one Robinson signed two offseasons ago: four years, $60 million. New York fans should be happy to see Hartenstein get paid, although it'll be bittersweet.
The good news? Hartenstein is poised to help guide the Knicks to a hopeful deep playoff run. The bad news? It will likely be his grand Knicks finale.