The Knicks may have a hidden gem on their bench

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks may have a hidden gem in their bench unit, as backup center Isaiah Hartenstein has provided a tremendous impact in the early going.

Isaiah Hartenstein shines in win over Miami Heat

Hartenstein made a few huge defensive plays in Friday’s comeback victory against the Heat. After starting center Mitchell Robinson found himself in foul trouble early, the Knicks relied heavily on Hartenstein to contain Miami’s Bam Adebayo the rest of the way, and he delivered.

He played 28 minutes off the bench Friday night and was a +18, adding five rebounds, two steals, and a block to his tally. His efforts were instrumental in the team’s rally from down 21 points in the second half to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Hartenstein is having a stellar 2023 campaign

Hartenstein has shown a consistently strong impact on the Knicks’ bench all season long. His 4.8 rebounds per game rank 10th best among all backup centers in the NBA (minimum five games played off the bench), and his 105.7 defensive is the fifth-best in that category as well.

While his main stat line is not astonishing, the impact the Knicks are getting out of their ninth guy off the bench is a true testament to their depth.

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The Knicks have one of the best center tandems in the NBA right now

With the dominant way Robinson has been playing this season, New York arguably has one of the best center tandems in the NBA right now. Not many teams get the kind of value that New York is currently getting out of both of their bigs, so the Knicks certainly would have the upper hand compared to the rest of the league in the center department.

“Isaiah and Mitch together, it’s a great tandem,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau, per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News earlier this month. “They compliment each other extremely well, they support each other, they’re great teammates.”

Hartenstein will look to continue to bring a positive impact when he and the Knicks take on the red-hot Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

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