Could the Knicks run a two-center lineup this season?

Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks
Mar 12, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) rebounds the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt (2) in the second half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Uncertainty remains at the backup power forward position for the New York Knicks as head coach Tom Thibodeau has thrown another name into the mix of potential candidates to back up Julius Randle.

Isaiah Hartenstein Could Get Time At the Four Next to Jericho Sims

After news surfaced that Josh Hart will see time off the bench at the four, New York Post reporter Zach Braziller has revealed that Isaiah Hartenstein will compete with Hart and Jericho Sims for minutes at the position:

“[Hartenstein] and Jericho, they play very effectively together. And oftentimes, I’ll go more by how they’re being defended, who do they have their 4 on, who do they have their 5 on?” Thibodeau said.

Braziller noted that Hartenstein and Sims played 128 minutes together a year ago. Neither Hartenstein nor Sims pose any threat from the outside whatsoever. The Knicks already struggled as a three-point shooting team at 35.4 percent from downtown, and a twin-towers reserve unit doesn’t figure to help that number get better.

Hartenstein is more of a traditional center who moves well when cutting to the basket in pick-and-roll opportunities, much like Sims. Power forwards across the league have range and ball-handling capabilities that will pose mismatch threats whenever the two see the floor.

Two Big Lineups Have a Low Success Rate in Today’s NBA

Though they had different usage rates, the Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert two-big lineup with the Minnesota Timberwolves proved to be a disaster last season. Towns has excelled as a distance shooter, winning the 2022 NBA Three-Point Shooting Contest and he owns a career average of 39.5 percent from beyond the arc. His spacing couldn’t remedy the awkward floor spacing that the two created.

Al Horford and Robert Williams III as members of the Boston Celtics behind stellar X’s and O’s from Ime Udoka, Bam Adebayo, and Meyers Leonard helped the Miami Heat reach the 2020 NBA Finals, but those remain outliers.

The Knicks Have a Big-Man Void to Fill

Obi Toppin’s departure leaves a void at the four behind Randle that will need to be sorted out prior to opening night. With one preseason game to show, Hartenstein went 0-2 from outside in 20 minutes. Forward Jacob Toppin got 10 minutes of playing time but he also threw up a donut, going 0-2 from deep as well.

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