Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On the bare numbers, 25-year-old Isaiah Hartenstein has had a pretty good season for the New York Knicks. The seven-footer is averaging 6.3 points and a career-best 7.3 rebounds per game.

However, what the numbers don’t tell is how much the usual backup center has stepped up in wake of yet another injury to Mitchell Robinson. Since Robinson went down with ankle surgery last month, Hartenstein is averaging ten boards and almost two blocks in 32.4 minutes per game. That’s ten minutes more than his season average.

Hartenstein’s latest performance—20 rebounds and five blocks in New York’s 116-100 win over Chicago on Wednesday—only fuels the inevitable. He’s a free agent this summer and putting himself in line for a solid payday.

Not at all bad for a former second-round pick who got his start playing in Germany.

Granted, Hartenstein isn’t getting a max contract from anyone. Even landing a $100 million deal seems unlikely. Realistically speaking, Isaiah Hartenstein seems more destined for a deal like Robinson’s. At or about four years and $60 million.

But looking at the deeper numbers, one can easily argue that Hartenstein deserves more. First, his defensive box plus-minus (DBPM) is at 1.6 on the year and could increase.

Furthermore, Hartenstein’s stats per 36 minutes show he has dominant potential. He’s averaged 12.1 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes in his career. This is also the first season in which he’s averaged more than 20 minutes per game. He started at 7.6 as a rookie and has gradually seen more playing time every season thereafter.

Of course, he’s fully embraced his extended role and isn’t shy about it.

“I can play this role,” Hartenstein said after Wednesday’s game. “I always had the confidence that I can really play it, but was never really in that situation. Before, yeah, I would finish games, but now I’m consistently playing 30-plus minutes. I feel like I can keep building on that.”

So at the end of the day, what does this mean for Isaiah Hartenstein and his future? Does he take a hometown discount next summer to re-sign with the Knicks? Will he seek the biggest contract and play elsewhere? Moreover, does New York keep him or include him in a potential blockbuster deal?

Hartenstein has kept the Knicks afloat in the paint despite not being as strong a defender or rim protector as Robinson. Remember, New York still ranks fifth in the NBA in rebounding. All signs point to a busy free agency for him.

This is an unexpected surprise in the best possible way. Instead of a stretch big like he was with the Clippers, Isaiah Hartenstein has blossomed into a dominant interior presence as a Knick. Rip Leon Rose and his refusal to speak to the press all you want. Adding Hartenstein is easily one of his shrewdest moves as team president.

And now, he must soon decide if he’ll pay Hartenstein again.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.