Knicks could face a $100+ million question with free agent big man

New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) dunks in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

As famously quoted by Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money!” That is precisely what the New York Knicks must do to retain star big man Isaiah Hartenstein as he heads into free agency seeking a lucrative contract.

Hartenstein’s Rise in the Knicks’ Lineup

With Mitchell Robinson sidelined for a considerable portion of the past season, Hartenstein stepped up and filled the void effortlessly. The 25-year-old had a breakout season, averaging 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists over 25.3 minutes per game. Not just a capable rebounder, Hartenstein also excels as a passer and playmaker from a position typically lacking in those skills.

During the playoffs, his performance further elevated, with averages of 8.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and a .592 shooting percentage over 13 games. His significant impact has made it crucial for the Knicks to do everything possible to keep him, even if it means trading Robinson to free up salary space.

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Contract Negotiations and Team Dynamics

According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, several executives anticipate that Hartenstein could secure a deal worth at least $80 million and possibly even exceeding $100 million. This expectation puts the Knicks in a position where they must make significant financial decisions, including shedding salaries to create sufficient cap space to re-sign him.

Fortunately, the Knicks possess Hartenstein’s Early Bird Rights, though the maximum they can offer him is a four-year, $72.5 million contract. This limitation opens the possibility for other teams to outbid them and lure him away.

However, it appears that the former second-round pick is keen on staying with the Knicks and might consider a more favorable deal that includes a player option in the future to increase his earnings. Beyond his skills on the court, Hartenstein is a perfect cultural fit for the Knicks. He has developed excellent chemistry with his teammates and consistently puts forth maximum effort, qualities that are highly valued by the team.

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