Reality sinking in that Knicks could lose Isaiah Hartenstein to fellow contender

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New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein
New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein / Elsa/GettyImages

Before the official start of free agency on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET, the New York Knicks already made one big splash. Although there was talk that OG Anunoby could be lured to a team like the Sixers, the Knicks re-signed him to a five-year deal worth $213 million with a player option in the final season.

Once the Anunoby dust settled, fans focused their full attention on Isaiah Hartenstein. The 26-year-old center is an unrestricted free agent and is set for a nice payday after two superb seasons in New York. As much as the Knicks would love to re-sign him, they can't offer more than $72.5 million across four years, while opposing teams can offer more.

The Thunder, Pistons, and Magic have all popped up as potential destinations for I-Hart. Out of those three, Oklahoma City seems to be New York's biggest threat, as the Thunder are coming off a season in which they finished as the No. 1 seed in a stacked Western Conference. Orlando is a young team on the rise, while Detroit has been the main laughingstock of the league.

Now that teams can contact Hartenstein without worrying about a tampering fine, Shams Charania reported that the Thunder are in Oregon to meet with the center.

Thunder are in Oregon to meet with free agent Isaiah Hartenstein

Hartenstein is from Eugene, so it makes sense that's where he's at during free agency. As you're reading this, the Thunder brass could be making their pitch to I-Hart in hopes that he'll leave New York for Oklahoma.

Since the season ended, the Knicks have bolstered their roster by re-signing Anunoby and trading for Mikal Bridges. New York finished as the No. 2 seed in the East this past season, even with several key injuries. As impressive as that was, the Thunder's rise was just as remarkable.

Oklahoma City was a second-round playoff exit at the hands of Dallas, with rebounding being one of the Thunder's biggest weaknesses. Hartenstein averaged a career-high 8.3 boards in 2023-24, so he'd help OKC address that need. The Thunder have a leg up over the Knicks, as they have more cap space than New York.

While Hartenstein returning to the Knicks hasn't been ruled out, there's a good chance he could've already played his final game in a New York jersey. It isn't often that Oklahoma City is more tempting than NYC, but in this case, it is.

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