Top Western Conference team could snatch Knicks center in free agency

Will he be willing to take less money to stay in New York?
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Two New York Knicks starters will be free agents this summer. OG Anunoby is expected to decline his $19.9 million player option for 2024-25, and Isaiah Hartenstein will be an unrestricted free agent. If the Knicks have it their way, both will return next season.

Hartenstein will draw several interested suitors after the best season of his career. He averaged 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game in 75 contests (49 starts). When Mitchell Robinson went down in December, Hartenstein stepped up. Robinson returned in late March, but Hartenstein kept the starting job.

New York has his Early Bird rights, meaning the Knicks could go over the salary cap to re-sign him. However, it also means that the most they can offer Hartenstein is a four-year, $72.5 million contract. Other teams could offer him more money, like the Thunder.

HoopsHype's Michael Scotto reported rival executives believe Oklahoma City will be active in the free-agent center market.

"Rival executives are monitoring the Thunder as a potential team in the free-agent center market this summer, with several names available, such as Nic Claxton – who can potentially command over $20 million on the market, as noted by HoopsHype – Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jonas Valanciunas, who’s not expected to return to New Orleans, as previously reported by HoopsHype."

Michael Scotto, HoopsHype

Thunder could pursue Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency

The Thunder secured the top seed in the West with a 57-25 record. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished behind Nikola Jokic in the MVP race. The Mavericks ousted them in the second round, but thanks to Sam Presti, they can be successful for a long time.

Oklahoma City could offer Hartenstein more money than New York. As CBS Sports' Sam Quinn pointed out, the Thunder could sign him to a two-year deal with "an inflated short-term salary" that the Knicks couldn't compete with.

Holmgren is Oklahoma City's starting center, and that's a role he won't lose. Hartenstein could come off the bench or even play minutes alongside Holmgren. Even though the Thunder could give him a higher salary, Hartenstein must consider the fit. If he stays in New York, the starting job will likely remain his. He doesn't have to prove anything. Tom Thibodeau knows what he offers.

Maybe Hartenstein will go with the money if a team with cap space offers him more than the Knicks, or he'll decide to stay in New York for less money with the goal of winning a championship.