As Fischer notes, Anunoby’s defensive talents were immediately impactful in wins over Minnesota and Chicago, and OG demonstrated an ability to guard all five positions. After the game, he received praise from Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, who called him, “One of the most impactful, versatile defenders in the league. […] I’ve seen him guard Damian Lillard one night, Joel Embiid the next.”
Anunoby is expected to test unrestricted free agency next summer. Contract discussions will be handled by his representation, CAA (including, cough, Sam Rose, son of Knicks team president, ahem, Leon Rose). Fischer explains:
Anunoby is expected to decline his $19.9 million player option for 2024-25 to reach unrestricted free agency and told reporters further contract conversations would be left to his representation, CAA, which, with the agency’s deep ties throughout Madison Square Garden, has left plenty of expectation among NBA personnel that Anunoby will be finding some agreement far above the four-year, $118 million extension Anunoby was limited to signing but would not have accepted with the Raptors.
In addition to the Anunoby acquisition, the Knicks may explore backcourt options before the trade deadline. New York has draft capital and flexibility with Evan Fournier’s contract to explore various trade options. As Fischer (and the rest of planet Earth) has observed, Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray is the premier point guard available in the trade market. Allegedly open for business, the Hawks may consider dishing some veteran contributors to incorporate a lottery pick alongside Trae Young and Jalen Johnson.
Murray’s pairing with Hawks All-Star Trae Young hasn’t brought the dividends Atlanta once imagined. Yet Murray’s four-year, $114 million extension that begins in 2024-25 does make him an intriguing trade target for any team with backcourt questions. We’ll see just how preemptively front offices move this winter before harsher tax penalties kick into effect next season as part of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Other possible guards mentioned for New York’s consideration were Alec Burks (Detroit) and Malcolm Brogdon (Portland).
Fischer addresses Pascal Siakam’s situation in Toronto, with Indiana, Sacramento, and Detroit emerging as potential landing spots; he claims that trade interest in Zach LaVine remains quiet, with teams hesitant to absorb his contract; and he speculates that Boston will explore bench upgrades and depth additions.
Meanwhile at The Athletic, Fred Katz wrote at length ($) about the surging Isaiah Hartenstein.
In his last game, Hartenstein shredded the Bulls frontcourt to the career-best tune of 20 rebounds and five blocks. It was yet one more great game in what’s becoming a long string of them. Katz quotes Julius Randle singing iHart’s praise:
“I’m impressed with the way he’s protecting the rim, to be honest,” Julius Randle said [...]. “We’re used to Mitch doing that, covering up for our mistakes when we get beat off the dribble. But he’s a monster doing that. And to go up against (Bulls center Andre) Drummond and get 20 rebounds, it’s no slight. He’s been amazing.”
Isaiah plays with an intensity that usually results in scratches, cuts, and split lips. None of it deters him much. Katz quotes him as saying, “Every time I go to the bench, it’s kinda like, ‘Isaiah, you’re bleeding again.’ ”
Hartenstein’s father, Florian, was a former professional center who inspired his son to develop skills like passing and ball-handling abilities, not necessarily common traits among treetop rim protectors.
Katz reports that after games, Hartenstein calls his recuperating teammate and close friend Mitchell Robinson, to keep him abreast of team and life events. While Mitch heals from ankle surgery, he roots for Hartenstein, now the Knicks’ primary center.
While the 25-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, Isaiah expresses his desire to stay with the Knicks in the piece. Katz explains that due to his dominant play, “his salary could jump into the realm of Robinson, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract a couple of years ago.” Furthermore:
The midlevel exception projects to be approximately $56 million over four years, starting in 2024-25. But Hartenstein may earn even more than that from a team desperate for a skilled yet gritty 7-footer.
The Knicks must consider budget constraints, especially with Robinson’s return, and may use Precious Achiuwa as their back-up if Hartenstein’s market value surpasses their limits. Acquired in the Toronto deal, Precious Achiuwa certainly doesn’t cut the profile of a traditional center. Jericho Sims remains off-stage, waiting for his turn, but he has yet to show significant growth this season.
Despite the potential for a significant contract in the future, Hartenstein prioritizes performing well for the Knicks and believes the rest will follow.
“I know if I keep going I’m gonna get paid, but that’s not the main thing right now,” Hartenstein said. “The main thing is, I wanna play good for New York and then everything after will kinda take care of itself.”
New York’s in Philly tonight. Go Knicks!