Will Knicks’ breakout center seek greener pastures in 2024-25?

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

Ever since New York Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson went down with a season-ending ankle injury, Isaiah Hartenstein has filled in the starting center role and exceeded expectations. Hartenstein’s infectious energy has been met with tenacious productivity in the interior.

Knicks are Enjoying Breakout Performances From Isaiah Hartenstein

In his last five games, Hartenstein is averaging 12.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. Notably, he corralled 19 rebounds in the Knicks’ 121-105 win over the Washington Wizards last Saturday, which almost matched his career outing in another 16-point win over the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 3.

In his defining game, Hartenstein brought down a career-high 20 boards in a double-double effort which saw him score 10 points and send back five rejections.

Robinson brought outstanding rebounding, particularly on the offensive end, and rim protection to the Knicks’ frontline. His output did not seem like it could be replicated by anyone, not only on the Knicks’ roster but in the entire league.

Hartenstein has proven otherwise. In addition to his eye-popping counting stats, he’s also netted a positive plus/minus in four of his last five starts during that stretch, three of which have been +26 or better.

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Will the Knicks be Able to Keep Hartenstein From Leaving in Free Agency

Jordanna Clark of Daily Knicks made the case that other front offices will court Hartenstein when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, saying:

“The truth is he’s playing himself out of New York’s price range. Mitchell Robinson should be back next season, so the Knicks’ main free agency priority will be keeping OG Anunoby, as he’s expected to decline his player option,” Clark asserted.

“You can bet that rival front offices have been monitoring Hartenstein’s rise.”

The need for a center across the league is always prevalent, especially for a rim-running Energizer like Hartenstein who also has a versatile back of tricks I’m his repertoire.

If his play keeps up, Hartenstein is almost guaranteed to want more than the $8 million he’s currently earning annually. The Knicks have big dreams of retaining much of their core while bringing a superstar to town.

It remains to be seen how they handle what will be a crowded depth chart featuring five centers once Robinson returns at the tail end of this year or in 2024-25.