Isaiah Hartenstein labeled Knicks’ biggest surprise through first half of the 2023-24 NBA season

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at New York Knicks
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have caused several role players on the New York Knicks to embrace more responsibilities through the first half of the 2023-24 NBA season. One of those crucial cogs in Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau’s lineup, Isaiah Hartenstein, made the most of his opportunities spelling for the injured Mitchell Robinson and came into his own as the fill-in starting center.

Knicks: Isaiah Hartenstein was the team’s most improved player in the first half of the season

Peter Botte of the New York Post recognized Hartenstein’s elevated play, touting him as the biggest surprise over the course of the team’s first 55 games played. 

Hartenstein blossomed into a rebounding machine with the starting five, averaging 11.2 boards across 24 starts. The first of his two most notable performances came in a 16-point win over the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 3, where he put up a career-high 20 rebounds along with 10 points, five blocks, and a +32 plus/minus. The other followed shortly after on Jan. 13, where Hartenstein again corraled 20 boards with an improved 12 points and four blocks against the Memphis Grizzlies.

It’s no coincidence that after Hartenstein’s insertion into the starting unit, the Knicks went 18-8 including a nine-game winning streak in that span. 

Hartenstein is achieving his goals in 2023-24 and contributing to Knicks wins

Earlier in the year, the seven-footer opened up about wanting to reel in the finesse and playmaking aspects of his game to approximate Robinson’s role and usage in the second unit. His mindset and shift have paid dividends, allowing Hartenstein to man the middle and be a big part of the Knicks’ winning ways. 

Donte DiVincenzo has also been a bright spot for the Knicks this season and Precious Achiuwa has steadily manned the backup center slot, but Hartenstein’s marked improvement stands out above the rest of his teammates. The Knicks are banking on his continued level of success once play resumes following the All-Star break. 

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