With the 2017 NBA Draft in the rear view mirror, let’s take a step back and evaluate the Houston Rockets’ selection of Isaiah Hartenstein.
The Houston Rockets had to wait several hours before making their first (and what turned out to be their only) selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. After trading their first round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Lou Williams, the Rockets were once again looking to find a gem in the second round.
Will Isaiah Hartenstein be that gem Daryl Morey is always looking for in the second round? Only time will tell. What we do know is that Hartenstein is a 7’0″ big man who fell in the draft but has tremendous upside.
Sure, Hartenstein comes with big risks, but what player drafted in the second round doesn’t? When it comes down to it, given the Rockets’ current situation in the NBA landscape and their upcoming free agency plans, Hartenstein was a good pick for Houston in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Let’s dive in to specific reasons Hartenstein was a good pick for the Rockets both in the short run and long run, since that is what the draft is all about (especially for a contending team like the Rockets).
It is no secret that like any offseason, the Rockets plan to go after the star free agents available. In order to do so, the Rockets need to clear maximum cap space, and one way to add to that cap space is by selecting a draft-and-stash player such as Hartenstein.
With Hartenstein not joining the team in Houston until the 2018-19 season, the Rockets can then make a trade or two to clear cap space to pursue the likes of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap.
The Rockets are in a unique position. They are coming off a surprisingly successful season, have most of their core players signed, and have decent flexibility to go after free agents this offseason. It has been revealed that several players such as Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Ryan Anderson are on the trading block in order for Houston to clear max cap space.
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Therefore, drafting Hartenstein was smart for Houston both in the short and long run, since he can continue to work on his game overseas and join the Rockets next season as a more mature and improved player while Houston goes after marquee free agents this summer.
It’s a win-win draft for both the Rockets and Hartenstein as the Rockets look to improve their roster while Hartenstein looks to improve his game over the next year.
Most draft predictions/models had Hartenstein slated as a late first round pick. ESPN‘s Chard Ford projected that Hartenstein would go late in the first round, but had him ranked as the 32nd overall player in the draft.
The fact that the Rockets were able to land Hartenstein at No. 43 should prove to be great value. When you are drafting in the second round and a projected first round pick falls into your lap, you better believe you should draft him. The main goal in drafting in the second round is to find under-appreciated gems that were overlooked by other teams. Hartenstein certainly fits that bill.
When making second round selections, a team is either looking for a seasoned player/prospect or a young, unpolished prospect with tremendous potential. For the Rockets, that player was Isaiah Hartenstein, and he fit right in with the team’s timeline.
Of course, there are almost always reasons a player falls significantly in the draft, and with Hartenstein it was a back injury, poor decision-making (basketball IQ), and an unpolished game. However, the young German says he is completely healthy, so it’s possible teams looked a little too far into the potential injury risk.
On the other hand, Hartenstein is a player that comes with intriguing potential on both ends of the floor. On the defensive end, he has shown he is already a good rebounder and shot-blocker in his play overseas.
In the 2015-16 season for QTSV Quakenbrück, Hartenstein averaged 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in just 24.4 minutes per game. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a (then) 18-year-old. Now of course it’s hard to translate that type of defensive performance against the big men in the NBA, but the fact that he’s already shown potential on the defensive end makes him even more intriguing.
Another thing going for Hartenstein is his size, making him a physical presence on the floor at all times. He is 7’0″ tall and weighs 225 pounds. With him playing another year overseas before joining the Rockets, there is room for him to improve his strength and physical presence on the floor.
Hartenstein may never be a dominant rim-protector of fierce interior defender. However, the fact that he is showing such defensive play overseas makes it easy to see how he can translate his skills to the NBA to be an at least average defender. For a player with his offensive potential, that is all you would hope for.
Isaiah Hartenstein has a versatile offensive game, something that big men increasingly must have in today’s NBA. He possess the ability to hit from the perimeter or in the paint, which will certainly make him hard to guard for opposing big men.
In that 2015-16 season for QTSV Quakenbrück, Hartenstein shot 47.9 percent from the field and 42.5 percent on three-pointers, making him a threat both inside and outside the arc.
He has a number of tools to use offensively, from his craftiness inside the paint to his ability to shoot on the perimeter. He is also a fairly gifted passer for a big man, as his vision allows him to see open teammates for better shots.
While Hartenstein hasn’t particularly mastered any one part of his offensive game, the fact that he has potential in various offensive components is intriguing and important for a player of his age and skill-set.
While Hartenstein has the skill level to play power forward, he will most likely be best suited as a center that can play inside and outside the arc. Now with another year to play overseas before joining the Rockets, Hartenstein can improve various facets of his offensive game to make him an even more intriguing prospect for Houston.
5. Hartenstein will join the Rockets with experience
As mentioned previously, Hartenstein will play another year overseas as the Rockets look to maximize their cap space in hopes of acquiring a star free agent this summer. That means he will have time to mature and work on his skills.
By doing so, Hartenstein will not only join the Rockets as a more polished player (one of his weaknesses heading into the draft), but as a more experienced and tested player.
Playing professionally overseas can speed up a player’s maturity, and Hartenstein will surely face challenges over the next year as he prepares for the NBA. By drafting and stashing the young German overseas for another year, the Rockets are helping him improve his game in a professional setting while also hoping they get a more polished and experienced player to join them for the 2018-19 season.
The Rockets will now look forward to pursuing some of the top names in free agency and will come back for the 2017-18 season looking to compete in the Western Conference. Hartenstein will return to Europe to work on his game and get more experienced before joining the team in Houston for the 2018-19 season.
In the end, Isaiah Hartenstein fell in the draft and the Rockets are excited to add a player with his potential on both ends of the floor to their team. It was a good pick for Houston, as they don’t disrupt their current plans but will eventually get a player with upside and potential to be a unique and solid NBA contributor over time.