One under the radar signing of NBA free agency in 2022 was the New York Knicks signing German-American big man Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year contract worth $16 million.
Going into his fifth season, Hartenstein will be a valuable piece for head coach Tom Thibodeau due to his abilities on both ends of the floor.
The 7-footer is coming off a productive year with the Los Angeles Clippers last season, putting up a stat line of 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game.
Hartenstein played 68 games for the Clippers coming off the bench, becoming an important piece for a injury-riddled team that finished with a record of 42-40, but ended up missing the playoffs due to losing two play-in tournament games to the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans.
Now playing in another large market, Hartenstein believes that he’s in a place that “wanted” him when he spoke with media after the first day of training camp.
“I think it was a spot where I felt wanted,” Hartenstein said. “That was a big thing coming into it. Finding a place where first of all, I can bring something. I felt like I can bring something that they didn’t have, to help them win.”
Part of that something includes being able to stretch the floor at the center position. While he didn’t attempt many three-point shots last season, Hartenstein shot 46 percent from three last season, making 14 out of his 30 attempts.
Robinson Says Hartenstein Will Help Him
Mitchell Robinson is looking forward to playing alongside his new teammate which he shares a position with.
Robinson hasn’t had a teammate with a different kind of a skillset at the center position like Hartenstein. Whether that be a current teammate such as Jericho Sims or a past teammate in Nerlens Noel, Robinson has played with centers who are similar to him, especially when it comes to being mainly impactful around the basket.
The only past teammate that an argument can be made for is NBA veteran Taj Gibson. Gibson can make mid-range jumpers and an occasional corner three, but doesn’t have all the tools that Hartenstein possesses.
When asked if Hartenstein’s style of play has helped him on the court, Robinson sounded confident in the abilities of the 24-year-old.
“Yeah its helped me a lot,” Robinson said. “He can shoot it, make plays, dribble and take it to the rack. How he plays, he’s really going to help me a lot. There’s a lot of guys like him thats in this league. Not all of them blocks shots and just run the floor. He’s definitely gonna be a great factor for me to have.”
While Robinson and Hartenstein have similarities such as being good rim protectors and lob threats, Robinson going up against the new Knicks center in practice will make him better on the defensive end.
Hartenstein’s Passing Will Be Impactful
Another strength of Hartenstein is his ability to pass and make plays for other teammates. Being able to take advantage of his height and look over defenses will be useful for the Knicks offense this season.
Hartenstein ranked 15th among all centers last season in assists per game last season. He works most at the low or high post finding teammates cutting to the basket or a wide-open shooter.
Lucky for Hartenstein, Coach Thibodeau has history of using centers who are able to become playmakers. During his coaching tenure, Thibodeau would use former All-Star center Joakim Noah’s playmaking abilities to create offense for the Bulls. In 2013-2014 season, Noah averaged 5.4 assists and has a career average of 2.8 assists per game.
Harsteinstein was asked if he believes Noah was a good comparison for him. He agreed but believes he’s the better shooter, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Now going into the 2022-2023 season, Hartenstein will serve as the backup center and should be an impact player in the rotation.