Isaiah Hartenstein Impact for the Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC made one of the biggest moves of the offseason on Monday morning, signing Isaiah Hartenstein to a three-year – $87 million to lure him away from New York. He will bring much needed toughness and rebounding to this young Thunder squad. He will have the chance to play for a serious contender as the pressure will rise for the Thunder as they are one of the favorites to come out the West and rightfully so when you look at the talent on this roster.

Hartenstein fits the teams timeline both in age (26-years-old) and his contract (three-year deal with the third year being non-guaranteed) as this move doesn’t hinder the Thunder from extending Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams to max contracts. Hartenstein is a 7-foot-250 pound big who fills the Thunder’s biggest flaw without altering what made them a 57-win team this past season.

This past season, Hartenstein averaged 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks while shooting 64% from the floor in 75 games (started in 49 games).

Hartenstein could either start or come off the bench which is a luxury for the Thunder. The addition of Hartenstein beefs up their front court which includes Chet Holmgren, Jaylin Williams, Kenrich Williams, and now Isaiah Hartenstein. OKC can now roll out a huge lineup, go small-ball, or anything in-between.

Rebounding and Interior Presence

The first thing that comes across people minds with this signing, is how Hartenstein solves the Thunder’s biggest issue, which is rebounding. Hartenstein was one of the best rebounders last season, especially on the offensive glass. As he’s relentless on the glass and he always gives you 110% when he’s on the floor.

Defensively, his ability to switch in a pinch, protect the rim, provide physicality and force in the paint, bring stability in the (non Chet Holmgren minutes) or pair up next to Chet Holmgren depending on the matchup is a massive selling point for this move. With the addition of Alex Caruso and Isaiah Hartenstein the Thunder who were a top-five in defense this past season arguably has the best defense in the league now.

Screening

This could be his biggest addition to the Thunder — his screen setting, Hartenstein is a fantastic screener and will immediately come in as the best screen setter on OKC.

Hartenstein will bring a different dimension to the Thunder’s pick-and-roll game. His screen-setting will create separation for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams will allow them to get downhill – clearing space in the mid-range which – both SGA and Williams excel in the midrange. The Thunder can run low pick-and-pops to get to his floater which he shot at 61% this past season.

Hartenstein will also take the defense to the rim with his strong rolls, which will allow players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams to coast in the lane which will benefit both of them as they’re amongst the league best drivers.

Connective Passing

Hartenstein is a very good passer. With his elite-level passing for the position, feel for the game, vision, and cutting ability, it immediately fits into what the Thunder are trying to do. Hartenstein will add a different dimension by using him to cut behind defenders in their drive-heavy offense, could be utilized in the dunker spot, or as a playmaker in the short roll which adds more layers to their offense and gives OKC plenty of ways to break down the defense. Hartenstein could unlock a new element in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren offensive game.

The screens set at the top of the key along with the way he will orchestrate the offense from the high-post and the dribble hand-offs around the top of the key will bring a new look to OKC’s offense. His offensive creativity and high IQ at his size will do wonders for the five-out system.

The only drawback from Hartenstein is his inability to shoot it from deep, I believe it won’t be as big of an issue, due to his ability to bend the defense in other ways which will allow the Thunder to stay true to their five-out system.

He’s an elite rebounder, and his size and toughness will help OKC’s front court immensely. But Hartenstein is more than a rebounder. His ball screens, dribble hand-offs, and post clear outs will be a huge help for the Thunder’s guards. This was a big-time signing for the Thunder.

Main Image: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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