Isaiah Hartenstein agrees to 3-year, $87 million deal with Oklahoma City Thunder: Reports

New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) shoots over Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) during the first half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Isaiah Hartenstein has agreed to a three-year, $87 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, taking what many league observers viewed as the top available center off the market early in the NBA’s 2024 free agency period.

The 26-year-old 7-footer is coming off a breakout 2023-24 campaign that saw him average 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in a career-high 25.3 minutes per game for the Knicks. After beginning the season as New York’s backup 5, Hartenstein moved into the starting lineup when incumbent Mitchell Robinson fractured his left ankle in December. He flourished in the larger role, shooting 66.3% from the field in 49 games as a starter, with the Knicks going 32-17 in those starts. He set stiff screens for star point guard Jalen Brunson in the two-man game that served as the engine of a top-10 offense; he served as the back-line rim protector for what finished as a top-10 defense.

Hartenstein became an integral piece of the puzzle for head coach Tom Thibodeau due to his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor. The sixth-year veteran hauled in 14.4% of his teammates’ missed shots during his time on the court, the second-highest offensive rebounding rate in the NBA, and proved a key complementary offensive cog capable of facilitating from the high post — he dished five assists per 100 possessions, 12th among 46 centers to log 1,000 minutes — and consistently splashing floaters, shooting a career-best 54% on shots taken between the restricted area and the foul line.

And he’s even more valuable on the other end of the court.

Hartenstein was one of just five players in the NBA last season with more than 80 blocks and 80 steals — a list that includes former Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr., as well as All-Defensive First Team selections Anthony Davis and Victor Wembanyama. Opponents shot just 52.5% when Hartenstein was defending them at the rim, according to Second Spectrum tracking — the eighth-stingiest mark among 113 players to contest at least 200 up-close tries, slotting in just below Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and eventual NBA champion Kristaps Porziņģis, and right between ace rookie paint protectors Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren.

All told, Knicks opponents shot just 60.6% at the cup when Hartenstein was on the floor — which was 6.4% below their success rate when he was off it and which would have led the NBA over the course of the full season. New York allowed just 111.8 points per 100 possessions in Hartenstein’s minutes; that would’ve ranked third in defensive efficiency for the full season. And the advanced stats loved him: Hartenstein finished third in defensive box plus-minus and second in defensive estimated plus-minus.

Hartenstein further burnished his reputation during the Knicks’ postseason run, logging nearly 30 hard-fought minutes per game for a New York team that knocked off Joel Embiid and the 76ers in Round 1 before eventually succumbing to the accumulated weight of a litany of injuries and the Indiana Pacers’ offense. As option after option fell off the board for Thibodeau, he kept giving his remaining rotation players more and more to do; Hartenstein responded, crashing the offensive boards, slinging backdoor passes from the elbows, curling into open space in the paint for floaters and banging down low, opening eyes around the league by showcasing how he’s developed his game in the six seasons since Houston selected him in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

“Anyone out there, you just have to be consistent. And then you have to be humble,” Hartenstein told Yahoo Sports senior NBA reporter Jake Fischer. “I was humble enough to see why I wasn’t playing right, see what wasn’t going right. In those summers, I really went in and just worked on my game. When the next opportunity came, I really seized it.”