Even after their selection of Christian Koloko with the No. 33 pick in last week’s NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors will no doubt scour the free agent market for budget big men with the type of potential the Raps development staff is so good at tapping into. Enter Los Angeles Clippers youngster Isaiah Hartenstein.
After signing John Wall and agreeing to a contract extension with Ivica Zubac, LA’s chances of retaining Hartenstein are slightly shrinking. This will make him an even more desirable target for Toronto if Koloko is more on the raw side.
A four-year veteran at just 23 years old, Hartenstein played a career-high 18 minutes per game for the Clippers last year while logging 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. His high shooting percentages, 3-point range, and impressive passing game point to a young player ready to take a step forward in their playing time and on-floor impact.
Outside of his individual potential, Hartenstein lines up as a fantastic fit alongside Koloko off the bench. Hartenstein won’t cost a ton, but he can still be an effective rim protector for the Raptors if they have enough available cap space or determination to secure him.
Should the Toronto Raptors pursue Isaiah Hartenstein?
Though Hartenstein’s shooting has so far been limited to roughly one 3-point attempt every three games, his 38% 3-point percentage and last season’s offensive explosion by Precious Achiuwa suggest the possibility for another big man breakout in Toronto.
The big man rotation for Toronto is a bit murky at the moment. With both Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young currently sitting on the free-agent market, it’s hard to know if Ujiri will bring back one or both of them to the team.
Beyond them, Khem Birch still remains as a backup center for the Raps, but the drafting of Koloko may have very well rendered Birch’s role on the team redundant. If the Raptors want to ditch Birch altogether, Hartenstein makes a ton of sense.
Young’s ability to play small forward could allow Hartenstein a spot at the four next to either Birch or Koloko. Hartenstein would likely beat out both of them if Nurse chooses to pit these two centers against one another. Ultimately, Hartenstein’s spot on the Raptors would come down to Boucher.
I the Raptors deem Boucher’s market too pricey, then expect Ujiri to at least take a cursory look at Isaiah. If not, Toronto may decide to stick with a known player over an unknown prospect.