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Knicks could be priced out of keeping 1 key free agent?

The IST court of the New York Knicks

Nov 24, 2023; New York, New York, USA; General view of the in-season tournament court logo during warmups before a game between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks may be facing a big roadblock in their attempts to run it back next season.

Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports reported on Friday that league executives and cap strategists believe that Knicks big man Isaiah Hartenstein will be able to command a very sizable contract on the free agent market this summer. The numbers that they are projecting for Hartenstein are at least $80 million in total value and possibly even upwards of $100 million.

That could end up being a major problem for the Knicks in their efforts to keep Hartenstein. With Hartenstein having just finished his second season with the team, the Knicks only have early Bird rights on him (as opposed to full Bird rights, which take three years to vest). As such, the Knicks can still exceed the salary cap to retain Hartenstein but only for a fixed monetary figure. The maximum of what the Knicks can offer to keep Hartenstein is four years and roughly $72.5 million. Meanwhile, any rival team with the ability to absorb Hartenstein into cap space can offer him a much larger contract than that to try to lure him away from the Knicks.

The 26-year-old Hartenstein is vital to what the Knicks do. He averaged a complete stat line of 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game this season, also becoming a full-time starter after Mitchell Robinson got hurt. Hartenstein is an elite second-chance rebounder, can facilitate offense out of the high post, protects the rim well at seven-foot, and is really efficient at scoring the ball as well (particularly with his automatic in-between floater game).

The Knicks have other free agents to worry about this offseason, including another one that rival teams may try to drive up the bidding on too. When it comes to Hartenstein, they may have to sell him on the fit and the comfort factors to make up for what they can’t offer in pure dollar figures.

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