You’ll remember that last week, I mused that Isaiah Hartenstein, despite a team leading net rating, was the weakest link in the rotation and a strong candidate to be replaced in the rotation at some point in the season. After a few more outings, I’m not sure I still stand by that opinion. It’s true that Mike D’Antoni could want a more experienced interior defender. But Hartenstein’s energy has been absolutely infectious, as evidenced by his team-leading +27 in the box score against Golden State on Thursday night. He’s always involved in some manner in the play, whether it be diving to the floor or tipping rebounds. And the most encouraging sign has been his progress on the perimeter on the defensive side of the ball. Against the Warriors, he conceded nothing when switched onto Kevin Durant.
Here, Durant probably does let Hartenstein off the hook, as Marv Albert opines, by not driving the ball, but the young big man is able to keep his balance after a series of crossover dribbles, contesting Durant at the point of release. Result: miss.
This next time, Durant actually drives, but Gary Clark is there to help off of Jerebko.
And on this last face-off, Durant goes left, and Tucker rotates to help, in the event Durant is able to get all the way in. Durant takes the runner and Hartenstein is able to stay with him and contest. Now to be honest, these stops aren’t nearly as dramatic as I recall them being when watching live. There was ample help which could not have been the case had that been Steph Curry or Klay Thompson lined up on the weak side. But the fact that Hartenstein, as a rookie big man, not particularly known for his agility, was even in a position to contest or funnel Durant towards the help is saying something. Along with Gary Clark, I’m really looking forward to watching this rookie develop as the season progresses.