Reporter explains why rival could consider stealing Hartenstein from the Knicks

Please stay, I-Hart.
New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein
New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein / Elsa/GettyImages

Two New York Knicks starters are expected to be unrestricted free agents this summer. Isaiah Hartenstein will undoubtedly be one now that the two-year contract he signed in 2022 is up, and OG Anunoby is expected to decline his player option for 2024-25.

Hartenstein is due for a big payday. Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer reported that the center could make over $100 million on his next contract, an offer the Knicks can't make. New York has his Early Bird Rights but is restricted in how much it can offer. If Hartenstein stays with the Knicks, the most he can sign for is $72.5 million across four years.

Teams with more cap space could far exceed what New York can offer. Oklahoma City, Orlando, and Detroit have been labeled as teams to watch, but there are questions about Hartenstein's potential fit with each team. The Pistons are projected to have the most cap space ($64.4 million) this summer out of all 30 teams.

Detroit recently hired Trajan Langdon as President of Basketball Operations and parted ways with GM Troy Weaver. With new leadership, it's impossible to predict what direction the Pistons will take this offseason. Maybe pursuing Hartenstein is on the list.

Pistons reporter speculates team could bring in another center this offseason

In James L. Edwards III's recent The Athletic mailbag, he discussed Jalen Duren's defensive weaknesses. Edwards III said he would be "afraid" to trade Duren if he were in charge but threw out the possibility that the team could add another center to the roster (subscription required).

"The Pistons need to find out if Duren’s struggles defensively are due to his inexperience, the team’s bad situation or if it is an area they’re worried won’t get much better. Duren has a lot of potential — I’d be afraid to trade him — but that potential won’t be reached until he turns a corner defensively.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Detroit elected to bring in a more seasoned center in order to lessen Duren’s workload and allow him to develop without the stakes being so high."

James L. Edwards III, The Athletic

Under Tom Thibodeau, Hartenstein formed a solid defensive identity. He's a good option for the Pistons to consider, but perhaps the Pistons will prefer to find a cheaper center who could come off the bench. Or, Detroit could come out of left field with an offer Hartenstein couldn't refuse.

Even if the Pistons did offer Hartenstein a considerable amount of money, it'd mean the 26-year-old would be going from one of the top teams in the East to the worst. The Pistons aren't expected to be a threat anytime soon. Langdon must first clean up the mess.

Don't assume that I-Hart will return to New York, but hopefully, that's what will happen. Stay away, Detroit.