Latest free agency report is a major reality check for hopeful Knicks fans

He's due for a big payday.
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks hope to make two big moves in free agency: keeping Isaiah Hartenstein and OG Anunoby. Hartenstein signed a two-year, $22 million contract in 2022, and he's due for a big payday after two successful seasons in New York.

The only negative aspect of the center upping his value is that it could mean he'll sign with a new team that can offer him more money, like the Thunder. The Knicks have Hartenstein's early Bird rights, meaning they could go over the salary cap to re-sign him, but there's a restriction on how much they can offer. New York can't offer him more than $72.5 million across four years.

As much as the organization and fans would love for Hartenstein to return, there is a very real chance he could follow more money elsewhere. He went from a backup center to the hottest big man on the 2024 free agency market. Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer reported that the 26-year-old could sign a deal worth more than $100 million.

"Any interested rival team will have the ability to double that amount — as much as $151.6 million over the same four-year length. There’s little expectation he’ll draw such a significant number, but league executives and cap strategists are projecting Hartenstein will be able to draw at least $80 million, and perhaps upward of $100 million, from a team hoping to steal Hartenstein from Madison Square Garden."

Jake Fischer, Yahoo Sports

Will Isaiah Hartenstein leave the Knicks for more money in free agency?

If Hartenstein stayed in New York, he would have taken less money rather than go elsewhere for more money. If he were to sign with a team with more cap space, there isn't a single Knicks fan who should hold that against him.

New York may get lucky with Jalen Brunson this summer, as he'll be eligible to sign a four-year, $156 million extension. If he waits until next summer, he could command $269.9 million across five years. Newsday's Steve Popper reported that the indication is that Brunson will sign a new contract this offseason, meaning he'd take a significant pay cut.

Maybe Hartenstein will be willing to do the same. Or, perhaps he'll go to a team willing to offer closer to the $100 million mark. It'll be hard to turn down that kind of money.

While the center could stay in New York, that's far from a guarantee. Even though Hartenstein is part of why the Knicks transformed over the past two seasons, he might've already played his final game in a New York jersey.