July 15, 2024

Knicks Free Agency Options After Losing Key Big Man

The Knicks missed out on Isaiah Hartenstein, who signed with the OKC Thunder on Monday, July 1st, securing a monumental 3-year, $87 million deal. Although there were rumors that Hartenstein might have accepted a slightly lower offer to stay with the Knicks, this substantial deal quashes those speculations.

The Mikal Bridges trade has hard-capped the Knicks at the first apron. According to the new CBA signed last summer, teams involved in a trade where they receive more money than they send out cannot exceed the first apron of $178.132 million. When the Knicks traded with the Nets, they received Bridges ($23.3 million) and sent out Bojan Bogdanovic ($19.032 million). Consequently, the maximum offer the Knicks could have made to Hartenstein was 4 years and $72.5 million. The Knicks could have opened up more cap space by trading Mitchell Robinson, but it was clear Hartenstein wanted a significant payday. Hartenstein was invaluable for the Knicks, excelling on the offensive glass and proving to be an underrated playmaker. His consistent health and performance made him a hard asset to replace. With his departure, who should the Knicks target in free agency now?

Knicks Free Agency Options After Losing Isaiah Hartenstein:

  1. Goga Bitadze: Goga Bitadze should be the Knicks’ top priority. He averages 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes and can rebound effectively. In the 15.4 minutes per game he played for the Magic, Bitadze averaged 1.8 offensive boards. He can also defend the perimeter, allowing opponents to shoot just 35.8% from three this season. Bitadze could provide an additional boost for the Knicks if Mitchell Robinson is injured, and he’s a better free-throw shooter than Robinson, making him valuable for clutch minutes.
  2. Precious Achiuwa: Precious Achiuwa, an unrestricted free agent, should also be considered by the Knicks. In his previous stint with the Knicks, he averaged 24.2 minutes and showcased defensive versatility despite being undersized. Achiuwa averaged 1.1 blocks per game and was strong on the offensive glass, with 2.9 offensive boards per game. Although he is an offensive downgrade from Hartenstein and inefficient for a center (shooting just 62.7% at the rim), he is a decent free-throw shooter and can hold his own against bigger centers.

The Knicks are “increasingly unlikely” to retain Isaiah Hartenstein in free  agency, The Thunder and Magic are two teams who have been previously linked  to potentially pursuing Hartenstein. : r/OrlandoMagic

3. Drew Eubanks: With a limited free-agent market for centers, the Knicks could turn to Drew Eubanks. They need a good bench center who can provide around 20 minutes per game and step in when Robinson is out. Eubanks is a solid shot-blocker and rim defender, allowing opponents to shoot just 56.7% within six feet of the rim. He is also strong on the offensive glass and a good free-throw shooter, making him reliable in clutch minutes. Though not a great perimeter defender, he can handle players driving to the rim.

The Last Word: This year’s free-agent class for centers is lackluster. The Knicks’ best options within their price range are listed above, but they could also improve their team by exploring trade options. Whatever their strategy, the Knicks need to act quickly as teams are rapidly signing centers.

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