July 25, 2024

Despite being plagued by injuries throughout the season, the Knicks came within one win of reaching their first Eastern Conference Finals since 2000. Much of this success can be attributed to players who stepped up in the absence of injured teammates, particularly Isaiah Hartenstein.

Although his season averages of 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists don’t stand out, the 7-footer played a crucial role on both ends of the floor for Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks. Hartenstein provided valuable contributions by setting hard screens for Jalen Brunson, effectively switching onto smaller players, and maintaining solid defense, which helped the Knicks cope with the recurring injuries of Mitchell Robinson.

Most importantly, Hartenstein seamlessly fit into the blue-collar culture that Thibodeau established with the Villanova trio.

Isaiah Hartenstein's ankle injury will test the Knicks' center depth —  again – Hartford Courant

Losing Hartenstein as a free agent would be a significant blow for the Knicks, but it’s a possibility they need to prepare for. According to the New York Post’s Stefan Bondy, the Thunder are considered “the top threat” in NBA circles to lure Hartenstein away from the Knicks this offseason.

The report also noted that the Thunder could “make a stronger bid” for Hartenstein than the Knicks, who are “capped out” and can offer roughly $17 million a year using his Early Bird Rights.

In contrast, the Thunder have a projected $33 million in cap space, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, with the potential to open up even more room this offseason.

Ironically, Brunson predicted back in April that Hartenstein “would break the bank” in free agency and secure a much higher salary than the $9.24 million he received this past season.

Hartenstein could address many of the Thunder’s issues with size and rebounding that were exposed during their second-round loss to the Mavericks.

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