HomeBasketball TodayIsaiah Hartenstein's struggles spell trouble for the New York Knicks

Isaiah Hartenstein’s struggles spell trouble for the New York Knicks

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Isaiah Hartenstein is a crucial piece for the Knicks.

The New York Knicks need Isaiah Hartenstein back and completely healthy, that much is clear. Hartenstein has done an impressive job of filling in for Mitchell Robinson as the Knicks’ starting center since Robinson underwent ankle surgery in December. But the seven-footer injured his Achilles tendon at some point in February. If he doesn’t get healthy soon, the Knicks season could be in jeopardy,

Knicks’ Hartenstein starts season strongly

Hartenstein looked like a borderline All-Star in January, putting up incredibly impressive stats — and having an even bigger impact on the Knicks’ success. Since January 1, he’s collected the ninth-most rebounds and the 26th-most blocks in the NBA. And that includes poor play since aggravating his Achilles tendon in early February.

Despite no longer appearing on the team’s injury report, Hartenstein’s Achilles remains an issue. He admitted as much following Thursday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors.

“I could have probably sat out a couple more weeks,” Hartenstein told SNY’s Ian Begley

How much has Hartenstein struggled since his injury?

New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) looks to pass in the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

While Hartenstein is confident in the team’s plan to re-acclimate him over time, he’s struggling right now. And that’s costing the Knicks wins.

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Over his last five games, Hartenstein is averaging only 5.6 points on 3.2 field goal attempts per game. He’s also grabbing just 5.4 rebounds and accruing less than half a block in just 20.2 minutes per game. Comparatively, he averaged 8.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 31.8 minutes per game across 14 games in January.

In his eight games played in February, Hartenstein averaged his first negative +/- since joining the starting lineup — after averaging +19.1 in January.

His general impact on New York’s defense is also clearly impacted by his injury and its effect on his athleticism and mobility. After posting an NBA-best defensive rating in January (98 points allowed per 100 possessions, minimum 10 games played), Hartenstein posted a below-average defensive rating in February (115). In fact, if Hartenstein’s defensive rating was as bad for the entire season as it was in February, it would be tied for 359th in the league.

And Hartenstein’s poor play has coincided with a bunch of Knicks’ losses. Granted, New York is dealing with more than just Hartenstein’s injury. Specifically, they’re awaiting the return of All-Star Julius Randle and Defensive Player of the Year candidate OG Anunoby. But still, wins have been difficult to come by since the seven-footer’s injury.

The Knicks were 14-2 in January when Hartenstein (and the rest of the team) were generally healthy. They were 4-8 in February, with Hartenstein missing four games and seeing a precipitous drop in minutes played beginning on February 8.

Generally speaking, Hartenstein allows the Knicks to successfully match up with some of the better big men in the league. And he provides offensive versatility that few centers offer. But he has to be healthy.

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Hartenstein’s impact is on the Knicks is clear. But he hasn’t been himself in a while. And an injured Hartenstein doesn’t cut it. 

So, New York is in the precarious position of choosing between resting a key contributor for the playoffs and possibly losing games and hoping their center gets healthy while continuing to play. Neither option is great. But one thing is clear, the Knicks need a healthy Hartenstein to compete.

Drew Maresca_headshot

About the Author

Drew Maresca is a NY-area writer and researcher who has covered the NBA for more than 5 years. Prior to joining ClutchPoints to cover the New York Knicks, Drew wrote for Basketball News and Basketball Insiders. Drew has conducted interviews inside NBA locker rooms including Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center, and the Kia Center, and he covered the 2019 NBA Draft in-person from Brooklyn.


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