Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein Predicted to Bolt for $50 Million Contract

Knicks free-agent center Isaiah Hartenstein

Getty Knicks free-agent center Isaiah Hartenstein

The Knicks did well to identify a bargain signing when they landed center Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency two years ago, bringing him in on a two-year, $16 million deal. Hartenstein played well above his paycheck, taking advantage of two injury-marred seasons from starter Mitchell Robinson to play 157 games with 57 starts in 2022-23 and 2023-24—and, arguably, outplaying Robinson even when both were healthy.

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the Knicks’ good fortune on Hartenstein figures to run up this summer thanks to a loophole in NBA rules that allows the Knicks to re-sign Hartenstein but limits what he can be offered to a max four-year, $72 million deal, which works out to $18 million per year.

Other teams can offer Hartenstein any amount they want up to the maximum. And ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the former Nets GM, says he expects a massive short-term offer from the Thunder or Pistons to draw Hartenstein away from the comfort he’s found with the Knicks. The offer he predicts for Hartenstein: two years and $50 million.

Knicks Could Face Stiff Competition

Here’s what Marks wrote about the Knicks/Hartenstein situation:

“A two-year contract by a team like Oklahoma City or Detroit is fewer years (both can offer four-year contracts) but gives Hartenstein an average of $25 million per season — $9 million more than in New York. He would also rank in the top 10 of highest-paid centers in 2024-25.

“A short-term contract also allows Hartenstein to reenter free agency at age 28.”

But Hartenstein has proven worthy of a big-time new contract. After he was a second-round pick for the Rockets in 2017 at just 19 years old, he came to the NBA the following year and struggled to find his footing, bouncing from Houston to the Cavs to the Nuggets.

He earned a consistent role with the Clippers in 2021-22, though, and that was a springboard to his time in New York, where he has averaged 6.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and just shy of a block and steal per game in 22.4 minutes.

“Hartenstein played a career high in minutes in New York. He joined Anthony Davis and Victor Wembanyama as the only players with 85 blocks and 85 steals in a season. He became the first player since Moses Malone in 1982 to record 12 offensive rebounds and 5 assists in a playoff game, according to ESPN Stats & Information,” Marks wrote.

Isaiah Hartenstein May Take Discount Offer

Still, tripling Hartenstein’s salary is excessive for a team with other priorities, though he played well with the Knicks. He is not a perimeter shooter and he is a bit redundant on the team when both he and Robinson are healthy. Robinson’s availability is always a concern, but centers are not hard to find, and the Knicks likely need to focus their resources elsewhere.

There are indications that Hartenstein would be willing to take less money to stay in a comfortable situation. Speaking on “The Roommates” podcast with teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart, Hartenstein said comfort is a consideration.

“I feel like it worked out perfectly,” Hartestein said. “I’m in a situation where I have a big role, situation where we’re winning, I think that’s the main things for me. And then you’re playing at the Garden for 41 games, I mean, we’ve played in different cities where not every game is a great atmosphere. So I think we’re lucky as Knicks to have great atmospheres almost every game.”




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