Isaiah Hartenstein’s name doesn’t come up often when talking about important players on the Knicks, but he showed just how valuable he can be down the stretch last year. Can the second-year Knick do the same this season?
When talking about Hartenstein’s first season as a Knick, it’s important to note that fans saw two completely different versions of him. One that averaged five points, six rebounds, and .8 assists in his first 51 games. He looked uncomfortable and lost, missing easy layups, blowing defensive assignments, and getting beat to rebounds he should have secured.
And then there’s the other version, the one that averaged five points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists and played a crucial part in the team’s second half success with his energy and playmaking. The hope is that, with a full season in New York under his belt, he’ll be more comfortable and can give the team a full season of the latter. If that is the case, then the Knicks will have themselves a backup center who is a great passer for his position and is more than capable of starting when Mitchell Robinson inevitably misses a few games.
What will happen with the shooting?:
While Hartenstein only attempted 41 threes from 2020-22, he shot them at a 39% clip, which excited a lot of fans going into last season. The prospect of having a big man that could stretch the floor next to the likes of Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and RJ Barrett was something we all couldn’t wait to see.
Unfortunately, for both Hartenstein and the fans, the big man had an abysmal year shooting the ball from beyond the arc, making just 8-of-37 attempts. Coming off of a year in which he made just 21.6% of his attempts, it will be interesting to see if he worked on it in the offseason, or if he plans to take it out of his game completely.
Can the second unit be a strength again:
When the Knicks made the playoffs in the 2020-21 season, their bench, lead by Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks and Obi Toppin, was a strong asset as they often outworked and outran opposing teams. Unfortunately, over the last couple of seasons, the bench regressed, and last season’s playoff series against Miami showed just how futile the bench offense could be at times.
Going into this season, there’s hope that the bench could be a strength of the team again. Quickley is coming off of a career-year, Josh Hart will be playing in his first full season as a Knick, and the addition of Donte DiVincenzo should add some much needed shooting to the unit.
Add a hopefully confident and comfortable Hartenstein, who’s rebounding, rim protection, and playmaking should mesh really well with the rest of the bench, and Knicks fans could witness a second unit that consistently plays hard, defends, and now has enough shooting.
To be frank, if Hartenstein just gives the team a full season of his second half and playoff performances, then there’s really not much more you can ask for. The big man plays hard, and is an unselfish player, capable of protecting the rim, rebounding at a solid level, and making the correct pass. The shooting is a big question mark, but he showed last season that he is more than capable of being an impact player without the three-ball, so at this point that would just be some extra icing on the cake. With Hartenstein getting to know the system and how to best utilize his skills with his teammates, he should be a fun to watch in that second unit.