Knicks could land Purdue star center, but it’s a risk

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The New York Knicks have several key decisions to make this offseason, beginning with the potential extension of Isaiah Hartenstein, which could range from $80 million to a lofty $100 million.

Knicks’ Offseason Strategy and Hartenstein’s Future

Hartenstein stepped in for the injured Mitchell Robinson, seamlessly integrating into the Knicks’ rotation—a unit that required enhanced playmaking and offensive prowess from the center position. Fortunately, his defensive contributions were equally commendable, particularly during the postseason when he propelled the team forward despite numerous injuries.

Prioritizing Hartenstein’s retention is key, but the Knicks might look to the NBA draft to offset his potential departure or even replace Robinson should they opt to move his contract.

May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) rebounds against Indiana Pacers forward Obi Toppin (1) during the second half during game five of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) rebounds against Indiana Pacers forward Obi Toppin (1) during the second half during game five of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

One intriguing prospect is Purdue’s standout Zach Edey, who had a breakout season in the Big Ten, amassing 25.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, and a .623 field goal percentage over 39 games. Edey, a bona fide star adorned with numerous awards, presents limitations in athleticism and mobility.

However, for a team like the Knicks, who operate at one of the slower paces in the NBA, he could be a suitable fit. His style is better suited for drop coverages, and his potential difficulty in setting high screens and then retreating to the paint could pose challenges for players like Jalen Brunson. The front office would need to be optimistic about his development, envisioning him as a Rudy Gobert-type with superior offensive skills but lesser defensive prowess.

While Edey is widely considered a first-round pick, opinions on his draft position vary significantly—from a potential lottery pick to possibly dropping into the 20s. This range presents an opportunity for the Knicks, particularly if he’s still available later in the draft.

CBS Sports noted, “As incredible as Edey was at Purdue over the past two years, he remains a divisive NBA prospect with what appears to be a pretty big range. He could go in the lottery or slip into the 20s. Either way, Edey would be a nice option for the Knicks if he’s still available at this point in the draft considering they could be on the verge of losing Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency.”

Zach Edey, Knicks
Credit: Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Realistically, the Knicks are likely to use their draft capital to either secure an established NBA star or to bolster their depth at guard and on the wing. After their playoff run against the Indiana Pacers, the lack of depth became apparent, and finding a young player who can effectively run the floor and play solid defense will be crucial.

However, identifying a rookie who can make an immediate impact is easier said than done, so the Knicks need to be judicious in how they utilize their two late first-round picks.

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