Knicks could target Hornets backup center as potential Isaiah Hartenstein replacement

Nov 12, 2023; New York, New York, USA;  Charlotte Hornets center Nick Richards (4) and New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) fight for a rebound in the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Knicks try to land a deal with impending free agent Isaiah Hartenstein, they also need to consider backup options in the event he signs elsewhere.

HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto tabbed Charlotte Hornets center Nick Richards as a cheap trade target for the Knicks should Hartenstein leave in free agency. He also mentioned Goga Bitadze and Jonas Valanciunas as free-agent options they can pursue as well.

“Should New York lose Hartenstein in free agency to a higher offer elsewhere, several centers are on their radar as potential replacements, including free agents Goga Bitadze, Jonas Vananciunas, and Nick Richards, who would be a trade target, league sources told HoopsHype. There’s also an outside chance the Knicks make a run at Andre Drummond, sources said,” Scotto wrote.

Nick Richards is a potential cheap trade target for the Knicks

Nick Richards, Knicks
Credit: Scott Kinser-USA TODAY Sports

Richards, 26, is a new name that has appeared in Knicks rumors this offseason. He just finished his fourth season with the Hornets in which his playing time skyrocketed, making 51 starts in 67 games and averaging 26.3 minutes per game. The additional playing time led to him having his best season to date in 2024, averaging 9.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks.

As Scotto mentioned, the Knicks would have to work out a trade with Charlotte in order to land Richards, but it shouldn’t be very pricey given that he is mostly used as a backup, and would be in that same role if he were to be on the Knicks. Even if Hartenstein were to return, New York could still pursue Richards if they plan on moving Mitchell Robinson to shed some salary.

SNY’s Ian Begley reported this week that the Washington Wizards are among the teams that have spoken to the Knicks about Robinson’s availability on the market.

Tom Thibodeau could positively impact Richards’ development

Dec 5, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau gestures towards New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) on the sideline against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Richards doesn’t have the same dominant interior presence that Robinson has, but the seven-footer is trending in a direction where he can develop into a menace around the basket. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has a knack for turning under-the-radar bigs into highly impactful players, so there is reason to believe the same could happen for Richards under Thibodeau.

The Knicks will be largely in the market for centers this offseason and will be more aggressive if they are unable to bring back Hartenstein. Could Richards find his way to the Big Apple this summer?

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