There are reports within NBA circles that the Los Angeles Clippers could be interested in reuniting with their former backup center Isaiah Hartenstein. Here’s why the New York Knicks could make the move and what it might look like.
According to executives around the league, the Clippers are also interested in their former backup center Isaiah Hartenstein, who is now with the Knicks, per @KevinOConnorNBA. pic.twitter.com/FIj1o7sPR8— Unbiased NBA Fan (@nonbiasednbafan) January 24, 2023
The 24-year-old Hartenstein spent last season in Los Angeles, where he averaged 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per game. The big man left sunny California in the offseason to sign a two-year contract with the Knicks worth $16 million.
In 48 games this season, Hartenstein has averaged 4.9 points and six rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game. It hasn’t exactly been the best fit, and a mutual parting could be coming. What has been interesting is many thought Hartenstein would step in as the starter with starting center Mitchell Robinson out.
In the two games since Robinson got hurt, coach Thibodeau has called upon another young center to step up. Jericho Sims, who was taken with the 58th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft has started and played 33 and 28 minutes in Robinson’s absence. Sims has faired well, scoring double digits and grabbing at least seven rebounds in both games. He is also more mobile than Hartenstein and offers more athletic bounce. The second-year center out of Texas has a real opportunity to show his importance over the next month without Robinson.
What about Hartenstein?
Hartenstein should continue to see 14-18 minutes, but he has factors working against him. Sims is a better rebounder and will help ease off some pressure on Julius Randle on that end. Randle is averaging a career-high 11 rebounds this season and has been a beast. Jericho Sims is also a better option as a screen-and-roll guy or someone who can catch lobs. This Knicks team has three players that average 20+ points per game. They need an athletic center like Robinson has been for them. Staying out of the way on offense or making yourself useful in a timely situation is what works best.
If Sims can show he’s ready for a bigger role, the Knicks could cut bait with Hartenstein. Having three centers wouldn’t make much sense, and he’s a much better fit on a Clippers team that is desperate for another big. There was promise in the preseason that he could be a big man that knocks down some threes for the Knicks. Hartenstein has taken a career-high 33 three-point attempts through 48 games, but he’s only hit eight of them, 24.2 percent. He also has a plus-minus of minus-five this season.
Who’s coming back in return?
In the scenario the Knicks do trade Hartenstein, there are a few names to look at on the Clippers roster.
The 32-year-old swingman has been on the move since 2018, and that very well could be the case here. Covington, who was brought in with Norman Powell from the Portland Trail Blazers before last season’s deadline, has never found his footing in LA. In 30 games this season, he has averaged only 16.4 minutes per game, his lowest since his rookie year. Not giving up on him just yet, he could be a good fit for the Knicks. At six foot seven, he can be a valuable player for a Knicks team that needs wings. Covington also gives the Knicks another shooter, as he’s knocked down at least 125 three-pointers in seven different seasons in his career. Roco is the type of player Tom Thibodeau can utilize as a two-way guy on both ends of the floor. Maybe his best days are behind him, but it’s a worthwhile move to see what he has left in the tank.
Terance Mann finds himself in a unique situation on the Clippers. The talented fourth-year guard is on a team that has a lot of depth. It’s been hard for him to find consistent time, as he plays 22.6 minutes per game. He’s shown flashes, most notably in the 2020-21 season playoffs when he dropped 39 points in game six of the second round to close out the Utah Jazz. He also recently scored a regular career-high 31 points on January 15th in a win over the Houston Rockets. He also is probably a better overall player than Quentin Grimes and has the potential of starting on this team. It would be very interesting to see how Mann would do in New York, and there are great chemistry possibilities of him coming off the bench with guard Immanuel Quickley. Trading for the 26-year-old Mann is not going to be an easy task, but it’s a nice thought.
*Covington and Mann are two players that can be assets and contribute right away to the Knicks this season.
Potential trade with Clippers
G- Terance Mann
G- Amir Coffey
F- Robert Covington
G- Miles McBride
F- Cam Reddish
C- Isaiah Hartenstein
Who would you guys like to see the Knicks go after before the trade deadline?