6 bargain New York Knicks targets to help fill the void left by Isaiah Hartenstein’s departure, including Walker Kessler

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If the New York Knicks are to maintain their status as an elite defensive squad on the perimeter and interior they will need to find a player to help fill some of the void left by departing center Isaiah Hartenstein. Fortunately, there are a few solid discount options available via NBA free agency and on the trade block.

The Knicks took another big step forward in their progress to being a legitimate title contender this past season and looked primed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals before a slew of injuries undercut their chances. A major reason for their impressive success in 2023-24 was due to every player buying into the defensive style of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Also Read: New York Knicks interested in intriguing trade target to replace Isaiah Hartenstein

One of the biggest keys to the team’s success on D was their depth, especially in the middle where gifted defensive centers are a dying breed. Yet, New York had two very good ones in Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein. But that depth took a major hit this week when the latter signed a big-money deal to bring his unique skills to the Oklahoma City Thunder next season.

Replacing the big man will be difficult after the organization used many of their future draft assets on a blockbuster trade to bring Nets star Mikal Bridges to Madison Square Garden, and gave 3-and-D specialist OG Anunoby a massive pay raise to help anchor their perimeter defense. With the franchise looking to avoid surpassing the $188.9 million tax threshold they will need to be creative in finding some discount options on the market.

The team does still have their $5 million taxpayer midlevel exception to use in free agency, and trade exceptions worth $6.8 million and $5.2 million. With that in mind, let’s look at six players the New York Knicks could potentially target to help fill some of the void left by center Isaiah Hartenstein.

Walker Kessler

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A couple of years ago it seemed like Walker Kessler might be one of the building blocks of the Utah Jazz’s rebuild. However, there is now some doubt about his future in Salt Lake City, and his name reportedly has come up in conversations at MSG as a replacement for Hartenstein. He has a very team-friendly contract, and at only 22 he has the potential to be a long-term anchor of the Knicks front court for years to come.

However, Utah president Danny Ainge is known for driving a hard bargain in trades and the cost to get him may be too much for New York.

Mo Bamba

Former sixth-overall selection Mo Bamba has not lived up to the expectations of a lottery pick but the six-year veteran has carved out a nice place as a very competent rotation player who can bring the rim protection Thibodeau loves on his defense. Furthermore, as a New York native, the lure of returning home to play for a title contender could out way overtures from other interested teams.

Also Read: New York Knicks accused of tampering in blockbuster Mikal Bridges trade by NBA star

Bismack Biyombo

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Bismack Biyombo is another disappointing lottery pick that has evolved into a good rotation player for contenders. The 31-year-old is also a skilled rim protector with strong rebounding skills who could be had for the $5 million midlevel.

Thomas Bryant

Thomas Bryant has moved around a lot during his short NBA career due to some of the limitations in his game. However, he continuously garners interest because he is a good athlete and a talented rebounder. While he won’t bring rim protection for New York, Knicks fans know how much strong offensive rebounding factored into their success last season.

Precious Achiuwa

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The perfect option to help fill the void left by Isaiah Hartenstein would be to bring back forward Precious Achiuwa. Although he is an undersized for center, he showed during his short time with the franchise that he is more than capable of guarding natural big men and is a great dirty-work player. However, the big question will be if he is willing to take a midlevel contract or can get more in free agency after a strong showing with the Knicks to end the season.

Also Read: New York Knicks news – OG Anunoby returns on massive contract

Kevon Looney

Another interesting option for New York would be to target a trade for former Golden State Warriors first-round pick Kevon Looney. The big man has fallen out of their rotation over the last couple of years, which has been aided by injuries. The organization once had high hopes for him but with a new regime leading the way, the gifted rebounder could be on the block.

The one issue is that his $8 million contract for next season would require the Knicks to send money back in a deal instead of using one of their various trade exceptions in a swap, and they may not have the assets or players they are willing to part with to make it happen.

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