The New York Knicks couldn't ask for a better backup center than Isaiah Hartenstein, a role he certainly won't hold next season. The 25-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent over the summer and is due for a big payday.
The outlook didn't look great for New York's frontcourt when it was reported Mitchell Robinson was expected to be out for the remainder of the season. Luckily for the Knicks, Hartenstein is worthy of being a starting center. In the nine games he's started thus far, he's averaged 8.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists.
Days after blocking Rudy Gobert three times and pulling down 20 rebounds against Andre Drummond, Hartenstein was tasked with going against the reigning MVP in Philadelphia. It's tough to contain Joel Embiid, as he still had 30 points (nine of those points came at the line) and 10 rebounds, but he finished with a team-worst plus/minus -29.
Hartenstein's proven he isn't afraid of anything. He's not worried about being put on a poster. All he cares about is protecting the rim, so it's no surprise that one of the best plays of New York's 128-92 win over Philadelphia on Friday began with Hartenstein.
Isaiah Hartenstein continues to stand out for all the right reasons in Knicks win
Isaiah Hartenstein is going to be a starting center in 2024-25. It's always nice to see a former Knick play themselves into a larger contract, even if it's with another team, but that doesn't mean his leaving will be any easier to accept.
Hartenstein signed a two-year, $16 million contract in the 2022 offseason. If he keeps it up, he will sign a deal much larger than that in July. The truth is he's playing himself out of New York's price range. Mitchell Robinson should be back next season, so the Knicks' main free agency priority will be keeping OG Anunoby, as he's expected to decline his player option.
You can bet that rival front offices have been monitoring Hartenstein's rise. He's thrived in a starting role. He hasn't been a full-time starter since he entered the league in 2018 with the Rockets. The nine games Hartenstein has started for the Knicks this season are a career-high, and that number will continue to rise.
So, while it'll be tough to see Hartenstein go, there's still plenty of basketball left to be played this season. Let's see what else some dude named Hartenstein can do.