Knicks reportedly trying to move injury-prone center

Dec 8, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;  New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) looks on during the first half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks desire to bring back Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency has been well-documented. Hartenstein was excellent this season when he was asked to start due to an injury to Mitchell Robinson. That injury may change the way they operate at the position moving forward, as Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Knicks have contacted teams about moving Robinson in a potential trade.

It might be difficult for the Knicks to afford two centers on such decently-sized contracts, especially if they want to bring back OG Anunoby — who is expected to command some serious money.

However, due to the way the Knicks played when Hartenstein was on the court last year, they could be showing their hand in who they believe is the better fit for the roster moving forward.

Mitchell Robinson Could Be Dealt by the Knicks this Summer

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Knicks had to move Hartenstein into the starting lineup when Robinson went down with an ankle injury. One of the biggest issues the Knicks have had with Robinson has been reliability, as he has played just 193 games over the last four seasons. On the other hand, Hartenstein has been extremely durable, playing 82 and 75 games in each of the last two seasons and performing at a very high level in both campaigns.

According to Defensive EPM, Hartenstein was the second-best defender in the NBA (+3.9) and he was one of the best centers in the NBA overall. EPM grades him out as the third-most impactful center (+4.7) behind just Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic on a per-rate basis. The Knicks do a great job of identifying the best fits on their roster, and while Robinson was drafted and developed by the team, it’s clear who the better option is.

Both players are 26 years old as well, so in terms of projecting long-term health, the team would likely side with Hartenstein over Robinson. The playmaking and rebounding that Hartenstein provides create an excellent presence on the offensive side of the ball because he can create second-chance opportunities. This offseason is as crucial as any for a team that is on the verge of Finals contention, and a difficult decision on Robinson’s future is one they just might have to make.

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