Knicks may get outbid in attempting to bring back breakout center

May 12, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) shoots the ball while New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) defends during game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Hartenstein is expected to get a big payday this summer, and if the New York Knicks want to bring him back for the long term, they have to hope other teams aren’t going to significantly outbid them.

Hartenstein just finished a two-year, $16 million deal he signed with the Knicks back in 2022. After a strong performance last season that saw him overtake the Knicks’ starting center position, he is expected to secure a long-term deal that will be much more lucrative than his previous deal.

Hartenstein’s early Bird rights limit what the Knicks can offer him

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

The Knicks have Hartenstein’s early Bird rights, meaning the largest contract they can offer him is a four-year, $72.5 million deal. However, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer, the center might be able to get a more lucrative deal if another team makes such an offer.

“Any interested rival team will have the ability to double that amount — as much as $151.6 million over the same four-year length. There’s little expectation he’ll draw such a significant number, but league executives and cap strategists are projecting Hartenstein will be able to draw at least $80 million, and perhaps upward of $100 million, from a team hoping to steal Hartenstein from Madison Square Garden,” wrote Fischer.

Hartenstein was one of the Knicks’ most impactful players in 2023

Apr 22, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  Philadelphia 76ers guard Kyle Lowry (7) is guarded by New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) and center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) during the second half during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Kyle Lowry (7) is guarded by New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) and center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) during the second half during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The former second-round pick had a career year with the Knicks this past season, averaging a career-high 8.3 rebounds per game (5.1 offensive) and having his best defensive season with 1.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. He also averaged a new career-high in minutes per game with 25.3, the first time he averaged at least 20 minutes per game.

It became increasingly clear as the season progressed that he was a strong fit in the starting lineup thanks to his ability to space the floor with his passing and his floaters from the mid-range area. Mitchell Robinson was good as a starter as well, but his game is limited to the restricted area, which hurt the floor spacing compared to when Hartenstein started.

The five-man lineup of Jalen Brunson, Miles McBride, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, and Hartenstein averaged 141.1 per 100 possessions and had a +33.1 point differential in the regular season, according to Cleaning The Glass. Both figures were the best out of any five-man lineup the Knicks ran at least 100 possessions with during the regular season.

Bringing Hartenstein back is one of the main priorities for the Knicks this summer, though with his increased value as a result of a highly impactful season, it will be a difficult task to keep him in New York for the long term.

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