Knicks are showing interest in excellent young defensive center

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz, knicks
Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks found out that Isaiah Hartenstein would sign a three-year $80 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder yesterday, creating a massive hole at the position. Last year, Hartenstein was one of the best defensive big men in the league, and unfortunately, they couldn’t keep him due to CBA regulations that limited New York to a four-year $72 million offer. With that need being fairly obvious, the Knicks have shown interest in Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz, who has been one of the better defensive big men in the league through his first two seasons.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported this first, citing that rival executives also believe the Jazz would be willing to listen to offers for the 22-year-old.

Walker Kessler On the Knicks’ Radar in Pursuit for Center

NBA: Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings
Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Last season was another strong one for Walker Kessler, a 2022 first-round pick, as he’s continued to show an excellent ability to contest shots and bring down boards. The Knicks would love to add some more help at the center position with Isaiah Hartenstein departing for OKC, and Kessler would certainly be a huge help alongside Mitchell Robinson. 4

The Knicks have made some key moves in the form of retaining OG Anunoby and trading for Mikal Bridges, but they’ll have to patch up their center depth as well. It would be hard to envision the Knicks landing Kessler at a cheap cost considering his youth and immediate impact on the court, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting last season.

He ranked in the 80th Percentile in Defensive EPM (+0.8) and in the 62nd Percentile in EPM (-0.7) last season, which was a step down from last season. The Knicks have a strong track record of optimizing centers though, as they did with Isaiah Hartenstein when they initially signed him two years ago.

READ MORE: Former NBA champ slams Knicks’ Mikal Bridges trade as a road toward a rebuild

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

During his rookie season, Kessler was in the 94th Percentile in Defensive EPM, and this past season he averaged 2.4 Blocks per Game while playing just 23.3 minutes a night. The Knicks could use him as a starter, but he has plenty of experience as a backup big as well, which is important given the defensive impact Mitchell Robinson always brings to the table.

Walker Kessler averaged 8.1 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, but perhaps the Knicks can bring him in and find another gem at the center position with this talented big man.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: