4 Potential Isaiah Hartenstein Replacement on Knicks Radar: Report

Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks

Getty Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are fully invested in bringing back Isaiah Hartenstein but they also have a backup plan in case he leaves for more money.

According to Hoopshype’s Michael Scotto, the Knicks are expected to offer Hartenstein the full four-year, $72 million maximum deal. However, that can easily be outbid by teams with cap room.

“Should New York lose Hartenstein in free agency to a higher offer elsewhere, several centers are on their radar as potential replacements, including free agents Goga BitadzeJonas Valanciunas, and Nick Richards, who would be a trade target, league sources told HoopsHype. There’s also an outside chance the Knicks make a run at Andre Drummond, sources said,” Scotto wrote on June 24.

Bet on Vet or Go Young?

Valanciunas and Drummond, a former four-time rebounding champion, are the bigger names and have the experience. But Bitadze and Richards have the upside and presumably less ego.

The 32-year-old Valanciunas is a traditional center who averaged 12.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in New Orleans last season. Drummond, a rebounding demon, fits the Tom Thibodeau type. The 30-year-old center crashes the board. He averaged 17.7 points and 18.9 rebounds per 36 minutes last season.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Bitadze averaged 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 blocks in 33 starts this past season in Orlando. He finished the season putting up 5.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 blocks across 62 games.

Richards, a former Kentucky Wildcat, has vastly improved over the last two seasons. After averaging 8.2 points and 6.4 rebounds during the 2022-23 season, his game went a notch up this past season. The 7-foot center with a 7’4 wingspan started in 51 of 67 games for the Charlotte Hornets last season. He averaged 10.1 points 8.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as a starter.

Knicks Gauging Mitchell Robinson’s Trade Market

The Knicks have been gauging Mitchell Robinson‘s trade market as Hartenstein is expected to return to New York, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer.

Scotto added that Mitchell would become the casualty of the Knicks’ expensive payroll should they successfully re-sign their top free agents.

“If the Knicks re-sign Hartenstein and [OG] Anunoby costs more than $35 million per year, some around the league believe center Mitchell Robinson could be traded to help New York maintain future payroll flexibility.  

Parting with Robinson would be tough because he’s viewed as the heart of the defense and is a favorite of coach Tom Thibodeau,” Scotto wrote on June 24.

Robinson’s name came up in a dialogue between the Knick and the Washington Wizards, according to SNY’s Ian Begley.

“So the fact that Mitchell Robinson’s name has come up in some of the Knicks’ trade conversations with opposing teams isn’t all that surprising (The Wizards are among the teams whose talks with the Knicks have included dialogue on Robinson. I’m sure several other teams have talked to New York about Robinson, their 26-year-old starting center),” Begley wrote on June 23.

The Wizards have a hole in the middle after trading Daniel Gafford to the Dallas Mavericks at the trade deadline. They are projected to select young center Alex Sarr at No. 2 in the NBA Draft.

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