The 2023 NBA trade deadline is a little over two weeks away, and just like a myriad of teams across the Association, the New York Knicks have some things to figure out. As with just about any team, shooting and defense could definitely help the Knicks, who need to stop the bleeding after four straight losses.
Beyond that, one area that’s looking more and more like it needs addressing is the pivot, where Mitchell Robinson — who has been the Knicks’ most positive player this season with a net rating of 8.2 — could be out for an extended period after undergoing thumb surgery.
With the team’s top rim-protector sidelined, one might have pegged offseason prize Isaiah Hartenstein as the logical choice to fill in. To this point, though, Tom Thibodeau looks to be going in a different direction.
Meanwhile, one hoops scribe believes that the team should take a similar approach to Hartenstein’s very presence on the Knicks’ roster.
B/R: Knicks Should Sell Ill-Fitting Big Man Isaiah Hartenstein at the TradeDeadline
Bleacher Report‘s Dan Favale just took a stab at determining what each of the league’s 30 teams should be prioritizing at the trade deadline. For the Knicks, Favale ultimately landed on the need to sell off some of the team’s lesser-used pieces.
And while names like Cam Reddish, Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose immediately jump to mind in such a scenario, Favale made a point to lump Hartenstein — who just joined the Knicks on a two-year, $16 million deal over the summer — into that group.
“Reddish and, to a lesser degree, Rose are the obvious candidates. It’s about time Isaiah Hartenstein gets thrown in there, too, ” Favale wrote.
“I billed him as one of the best signings, bar none, from this past offseason. But the fit isn’t great. New York’s offense doesn’t accentuate his greatest strengths, and this roster needs a more constant presence on the defensive glass from its bigs.”
That more or less sums up what has transpired with Hartenstein. He’s still just 24 years old and in his first year with a new club, but the fact that Thibodeau went with the significantly less-experienced center in Jericho Sims as the Robinson replacement speaks volumes.
Hartenstein’s Game Has Dropped Off Significantly in 2022-23
Looking at his performance behind Ivica Zubac for the Clippers last season, the seven-foot Hartenstein looked like someone who could actually take Robinson’s place (before the baller re-upped) and function as an upgrade.
On shots within six feet of the hoop, opponents’ field-goal percentages dropped 10.3 points on average when Hartenstein was the closest defender in 2021-22. And on the offensive end, he converted at a 75.4% clip within three feet of the tin. So, he seemingly had paint skills similar to Robinson on both ends with some added bonuses on the offensive end.
Specifically, he was a 46.7% three-point shooter (on a small sample size, but still…) with an assist share approaching 20%. So, he figured to be much more than the shot-blocker/roll-man combo that Robinson has been. Alas, things haven’t played out that way in NYC.
As of this writing, Hartenstein is down to just over 24% from deep, a career-low 56.7% within three feet and his shot-blocking numbers have plummeted, too, going from 3.1 blocks per 100 possessions to a career-low 2.0.