What to make of Rockets rookie center Isaiah Hartenstein?

I’m struggling with what I should make of Rockets rookie center Isaiah Hartenstein. I thought he was terrible until I saw today that he leads the team in net rating at +26.0. There’s really nothing he seems able to do at a high level based on the eye test. He’s not particularly quick or athletic, doesn’t have range or post up skills, doesn’t have good hands, and is really clumsy. He spends a lot of time on the floor after falling down. I highlighted his defensive struggles some weeks before, particularly after getting switched onto speedy guards on the perimeter. That part was probably to be expected – not everyone is a rookie Clint Capela sticking with Steph Curry in the Western Conference Finals.

But Hartenstein is clearly doing something positive because the numbers don’t lie. It’s probably his energy. Or its something else I’d notice if I had the time or inclination to go back and review film. (I don’t.) And so he’s going to be the backup ‘5’ for the time being.

With Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia, Gary Clark here to stay, and Michael Carter-Williams banished to the bench, its safe to say the rotation is looking pretty set. I felt like the biggest remaining hole was backup ‘5’ where I thought Carmelo Anthony could have found a niche if he stayed a Rocket. (He probably won’t.) On the one hand, it’s fun to see young players develop over the course of a season. On the other hand, despite the 5-7 start, the Rockets are still a team with championship aspirations and are already integrating one rookie into a major role. My gut tells me they’ll be looking for a vet to take some of those minutes.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of Red94.net.

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