Knicks rumors: Surging West squad has 'real' interest in Isaiah Hartenstein

Where there's smoke, there's fire.
New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein
New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Over these next few weeks, the free agency reports will ramp up. They've already started for the New York Knicks, who are expected to have two unrestricted free-agent starters. OG Anunoby will decide on his $19.9 million player option, while Isaiah Hartenstein will enter unrestricted free agency.

The Knicks have I-Hart's Early Bird Rights but are capped on how much they can offer the big man to stay. He could sign a four-year deal worth up to $72.5 million in New York or follow the money elsewhere to a team with more cap space. The Magic, Pistons, and Thunder have popped up as potential destinations for the center, as all three teams could offer him more money than the Knicks.

On Monday, New York Post's Stefan Bondy reported that an NBA source said Oklahoma City's interest in Hartenstein is "real."

"One league source speculated the Thunder would offer a short-term deal (such as two years) with a high salary, providing both sides with long-term flexibility."

Stefan Bondy, via NYP

Will the Thunder lure Hartenstein away from the Knicks in free agency?

Chet Holmgren is OKC's current starting center, but his natural position is the four. The Thunder could throw a lot of money at I-Hart on a short-term deal and make him their starting center. He'd help address their rebounding woes, as OKC averaged 42 rebounds per game during the regular season (the fourth lowest in the league).

Hartenstein averaged a career-high 8.3 rebounds per game in 2023-24 while starting in a career-best 49 of 75 contests. He took over the starting job when Mitchell Robinson went down in December, and when Robinson returned in late March, I-Hart was still the starter.

The Thunder finished as the No. 1 seed in the West with a 57-25 record (they had the tiebreaker over the Nuggets) but came up short in the second round against the Mavericks. Dallas out-rebounded Oklahoma City, 271-243.

If the Thunder signed Hartenstein, they'd have to adjust their offense, as he isn't a shooter. Maybe that's something Mark Daigneault is willing to do so that OKC could make a deep playoff run in 2025.

As much as the Knicks would love to have Hartenstein back, it'll be hard for him to turn down a short-term deal from the Thunder that'd give him more money than he could get in New York.