July 15, 2024

6 Budget-Friendly New York Knicks Targets to Replace Isaiah Hartenstein, Including Walker Kessler

The New York Knicks need to find a replacement for departing center Isaiah Hartenstein to maintain their elite defensive presence. Fortunately, there are several affordable options available via NBA free agency and the trade market.

The Knicks made significant progress towards becoming title contenders this past season and were poised to reach the Eastern Conference Finals before injuries hindered their chances. Their success in 2023-24 was largely due to the team’s commitment to head coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive strategy. The depth at the center position, particularly with Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein, was crucial. However, Hartenstein’s move to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a lucrative deal has left a gap in the roster.

Replacing Hartenstein is challenging, especially after the Knicks used many future draft assets in a trade for Nets star Mikal Bridges and gave 3-and-D specialist OG Anunoby a significant pay raise. To avoid exceeding the $188.9 million tax threshold, the team must be creative in finding budget-friendly replacements.

The Knicks have a $5 million taxpayer midlevel exception and trade exceptions worth $6.8 million and $5.2 million. Here are six potential targets to fill the void left by Hartenstein:

The Knicks should attempt to trade for Walker Kessler perhaps give up the  French guy they drafted : r/NYKnicks

  1. Walker Kessler: Once seen as a cornerstone for the Utah Jazz’s rebuild, Kessler now faces an uncertain future in Salt Lake City. At 22, he has a team-friendly contract and the potential to be a long-term frontcourt anchor for the Knicks. However, acquiring him may be costly due to Utah president Danny Ainge’s reputation for tough negotiations.
  2. Mo Bamba: The former sixth-overall pick hasn’t met lottery expectations but has become a competent rotation player and rim protector. A New York native, Bamba might be enticed by the opportunity to return home and play for a contender.
  3. Bismack Biyombo: Another former lottery pick, Biyombo has developed into a solid rotation player for contenders. At 31, he offers rim protection and rebounding skills and could be available for the $5 million midlevel exception.
  4. Thomas Bryant: Despite limitations in his game, Bryant is a good athlete and talented rebounder. He wouldn’t provide rim protection but could contribute to the Knicks’ offensive rebounding success.
  5. Precious Achiuwa: Bringing back Achiuwa, an undersized center, could be ideal. He proved capable of guarding big men and doing the dirty work. The main concern is whether he would accept a midlevel contract or seek more in free agency after his strong finish with the Knicks.
  6. Kevon Looney: Trading for Kevon Looney, a former Golden State Warriors first-round pick, is another option. Injuries have limited his playing time, but he remains a gifted rebounder. However, his $8 million contract would require the Knicks to send money back in a deal, and they might lack the assets or players to facilitate this trade.

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