When the New York Knicks signed center Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year $16 million contract in the offseason, there was not much buzz around it. The 24-year-old was coming off a season on the Los Angeles Clippers that saw him average 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 17.9 minutes as the backup center. He was going to be joining his fifth team in his young career.
Since the Knicks gave center Mitchell Robinson a new four-year deal, Hartenstein would again be slotted as the backup big on a team.
The Knicks opened the season in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Mitchell Robinson would fall into foul trouble which gave Hartenstein early run with his new team. Taking advantage, the 43rd pick in the 2017 NBA draft, scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 40 minutes. The Knicks would lose 115-112 in overtime but it was a really positive opening game for Hartenstein.
His minutes would fluctuate in the 20s all season and he only played 30+ minutes in four more games all season. Two of those were overtime games in addition to the overtime opener.
Isaiah Hartenstein deserves a shoutout for contributing when called upon. He would play in all 82 this season, hearing his name in the starting five in eight of those games. The season averages won’t catch people's attention as he averaged five points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 19.8 minutes. Even his percentages and effective field goal percentage were down from 2021-22 despite taking fewer shots. The stats don’t always tell the story and Hartenstein was a key contributor to the Knicks this season.
His best month of the season came in February when the Knicks went 9-2. He averaged 8.6 rebounds and had double-digit rebounds in seven of those games. The Knicks were winning and Hartenstein was doing his part.
I look back on a game like the Knicks' 126-120 win over the Utah Jazz on February 11th. Hartenstein scored six points on 3/5 shooting, finished with 14 rebounds, and was a +9 from the floor. The 14 rebounds were pretty split as eight of them were defensive and six of them were offensive.
This play here exemplified the seven-footers value for New York this season. Jalen Brunson drives to the basket and misses, Hartenstein is there to collect the offensive rebound and kicks it back to Brunson who passes it to Julius Randle which ultimately leads to a big three-pointer to put the Knicks up 118-109 with three minutes left:
Every team and fanbase wants a player like Hartenstein. Someone who plays hard and knows their role on the court. The Knicks center finished the season as a +151 in plus/minus. One of seven Knicks to finish with a +150 or higher.
When it came to win shares, he was a +2.2 offensive and +2.4 defensive, +4.6 total. His offensive production went down from his time on the Clippers last season but his role on the Knicks was more defensive and rebounding. Hartenstein’s rebounding average would go from 4.9 in 2021-22 to 6.5 in 2022-23. Continuing the defensive theme, he finished as a +1.2 in defensive box plus-minus and +0.7 value over replacement player.
Game 1 vs Cleveland Cavaliers:
Isaiah Hartenstein’s biggest moment came in the Knicks' first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks were up 97-95 with under a minute left in Game One against the Cavaliers. Josh Hart missed a foul line jumper and look who was there to get his hand on the ball giving the Knicks another possession, Isaiah Hartenstein. Jalen Brunson would hit a layup to put the Knicks up 99-95 with 35 sections left. The Knicks would take a 1-0 series lead and win the series in five games, their first playoff series victory in ten years. Who knows what would’ve happened if the Cavs got the ball back down two instead of four.
Twice at the end of the game with the Cavs down 2 Cedi played great defense on Brunson but both times the Knicks got the offensive rebound off misses pic.twitter.com/vdAPpHFSSi— (@TheCediFanClub) April 16, 2023
In Game Four, he grabbed eight rebounds along with two blocks and two steals in 20 minutes to help the Knicks take a 3-1 series lead.
He really did factor into New York’s series win over Cleveland and that is what I hope to highlight. Was he good in the Miami series? Not really, but anyone on the Knicks not named Jalen Brunson wasn't either.
There were a lot of aspects of Isaiah Hartenstein’s game that I liked this season. He’s a guy that plays tough, uses his size well, and has a lot of potential. Still only 25 years old, the seven-foot center should be able to use the offseason to hopefully add more offense to his repertoire. As good and effective as the defense and rebounding are, Hartenstein should have a real chance to start more games if he can develop a shot and more points in the paint and around the basket.
I would assume he’ll be back in New York for another season and I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table.
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