Knicks have Magic backup center on their ‘radar’ if Hartenstein walks

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic, knicks
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The New York Knicks are keen on retaining Isaiah Hartenstein, who is known for his playmaking abilities from the center position. However, as he hits the free agent market, there is expected to be strong competition for his services. Reports suggest the Oklahoma City Thunder might offer him a long-term deal worth up to $100 million, which significantly surpasses what the Knicks can offer through his Early Bird Rights.

The Knicks Have Cheaper Center Options in Mind

To potentially keep Hartenstein long-term, the Knicks might consider offloading Mitchell Robinson and his substantial salary. This move would not only free up cap space but also reduce expenditure on the backup center position. Ian Bagley of SNY reports that if the Knicks lose Hartenstein or decide to trade Robinson, Goga Bitadze could serve as a viable backup option.

“Magic big man Goga Bitadze is among the centers that’s been on New York’s radar if it needs to pivot. There are probably many other centers under consideration for this scenario.”

Evaluating Goga Bitadze’s Potential

At 25 years old next season, Bitadze is showing promise. Last year, he played 62 games, starting 33, and averaged 15.4 minutes per game. His stats included 5.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game, with a shooting percentage of .603 from the field. Standing 6-foot-11 and weighing 250 pounds, the Georgian native possesses solid skills that tom Thibodeau could further develop, offering a more cost-effective solution compared to Robinson.

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Balancing Costs and Talent Retention

The decision on how much to invest in Hartenstein hinges on the competitive offers he might receive from other teams. While the Knicks are hopeful about retaining both Hartenstein and OG Anunoby, the latter is reportedly seeking the maximum possible salary, expressing dissatisfaction with the Knicks’ initial offer. This situation places additional pressure on the Knicks to manage their payroll effectively.

By offloading Robinson, who has struggled with health issues and postseason availability, the Knicks could free up $14.3 million. This strategic financial move would allow them to invest in a more reliable backup and potentially secure Hartenstein as a starter, reflecting his contributions and importance to the team going forward.

As the situation develops, the front office must weigh its financial flexibility against the need to secure key talent, ensuring it remains competitive while managing salary cap implications effectively.

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