When the New York Knicks lost starting center Mitchell Robinson to an ankle injury in early December, their biggest advantage over opponents in the NBA disappeared. Robinson hit the offensive glass at a faster rate than some teams in the league and was the anchor of their defense. Without him things were bad for a while.
In December, their defense production collapsed. The Knicks were near the bottom of the NBA standings in points allowed and defensive rating as life without Robinson was difficult to manage. However, they have received elite production from Isaiah Hartenstein in recent games to help them get back on track.
Hartenstein isn’t the same type of player as Robinson, but an argument can be made that the Knicks are better with him in the starting lineup. The team’s rebounding rate has not decreased, as Hartenstein is one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA.
His impact was also felt in defence. Hartenstein is an excellent rim protector, he clears shots into the paint with regularity. While he isn’t as long or athletic as Robinson, he still causes havoc in the passing lanes, creating steals and turnovers.
Hartenstein wasn’t a household name a few weeks ago, but everyone should know who he is now. He is an integral part of the Knicks’ recent success as someone who helps the team win games.
Finding adequate support behind him is essential. He can’t play more than 40 minutes every night as he has done a few times since Robinson’s injury. Robinson returning to the lineup before the end of the season would be a huge boost for the team, giving the Knicks the best center tandem in the NBA.