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With Mitchell Robinson out, Isaiah Hartenstein has a great opportunity in front of him

The seven-foot center pulled down 16 rebounds in Friday’s game against the Celtics, tying a career-high.

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

New York Knicks starting center Mitchell Robinson will be out indefinitely after suffering an ankle injury that will require surgery. The injury occurred in the first half of New York’s Friday night loss to the Boston Celtics.

In 21 games this season, Mitch is averaging 6.2 points, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks, and a career-high 10.3 rebounds in 29.2 minutes.

With Robinson shelved, it thrusts Isaiah Hartenstein into the starting lineup. The 25-year-old Hartenstein is in the second and final year of his two-year, $16 million contract and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

The seven-foot German is having a very solid season in New York. He averages 5.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and nearly a block per game in 17.6 minutes off the bench. Last season, he played in all 82 regular-season games and averaged 5.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. More importantly, he finished second on the Knicks in plus/minus last season.

Hartenstein was only one of ten players to play all 82 games in the 2022–23 season. He became the first Knick since 2016–17 to play in all 82 games.

Against the Celtics Friday night, he finished the game with five points, four assists, and two blocks, and he tied a career-high with 16 rebounds in 29 minutes. He was also a +9 in a game that saw the Knicks lose by double digits.

His numbers won’t jump out to people; he’s not that kind of player. Hartenstein has never scored 20 points in a game in his career. What he does bring is just solid play from an NBA big man. He’s the type of player that every team could use, and his value is not always dependent on the stat sheet.

With that being said, Hartenstein has still shown the ability to put up some numbers, given the opportunity.

In 2021–22, as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Hartenstein had a career year. He played in 68 games and averaged 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 blocks in just under 18 minutes per game. The German also shot 64.0 percent on two-pointers. His best career stretch came in the final five games of April that season. Hartenstein averaged 11.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.0 blocks in 24.2 minutes. The Clippers also went 5-0 in that stretch to end the season. Hartenstein finished that season at +169, second only to Luke Kennard at +183.

He also finished that 2021–22 season with +3.3 in offensive win shares, +2.2 in defensive win shares, and +5.5 in total win shares.

Last season, the Knicks center was +2.2 in offensive win shares, +2.4 in defensive win shares, and +4.6 in total win shares. He ended up finishing as a -1.5 in offensive box plus/minus but was a +1.2 in defensive box plus/minus.

This season, Hartenstein is again on his way to showing his value. The 43rd pick in the 2017 NBA draft is +0.7 in offensive win shares, +0.6 in defensive win shares, and +1.3 in total win shares this season. He is also in the positives again this season in plus/minus at +36.

For reference, Mitchell Robinson is +0.9 in offensive win shares, +1.1 in defensive win shares, and +2.0 in win shares. Robinson also edges Hartenstein in offensive box plus/minus, where he is -0.4 to Isaiah’s -1.5. Hartenstein is a +1.6 in defensive box plus/minus, which is better than Mitch’s +0.7.

All of this is to say that Hartenstein is capable of filling some kind of void with Mitchell Robinson out. Remember, just because he doesn’t have a double-double or 15 points doesn’t mean he is not impacting the game. Isaiah is being Isaiah, and that’s why this fanbase has come to appreciate him.

Last season, he averaged 5.9 points and 7.0 rebounds in eight games as a starter.

The second-year Knick has a great opportunity in front of him in a contract year.

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