Celtics Could Target Former G-League Champion in Free Agency


Isaiah Hartenstein, Boston Celtics

Al Horford is aging and Robert Williams struggles to stay healthy throughout a season, so it stands to reason that the Boston Celtics could use an extra big man to fill out their center rotation ahead of next season.

Sure, Daniel Theis is a viable big-man given the right matchup, but it’s clear he’s not the kind of center Ime Udoka wants to build his bank rotation around. Luckily, while this burgeoning free agency class isn’t littered with starting talent, it does offer a wide variety of influential players in numerous positions.

According to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg, Isaiah Hartenstein, now a full free agent, could be a viable option to round out the Celtics’ big-man rotation.

“Hartenstein isn’t a household name, but don’t sleep on the 7ft man who’s had a career season in which he’s developed an impressive 3-point shot (14 for 30 from beyond the arc). Hartenstein is a very good matchmaker for his size and could give Robert Williams and Al Horford some upfront credit if the Cs see him as an upgrade over Daniel Theis,” Forsberg wrote on June 25.

Hartenstein has been impressive for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, appearing in 68 regular-season games for them, averaging 17.9 minutes per game off the bench.

How would Hartenstein fit into Boston?

At six feet tall, Hartenstein would give the Celtics bench legitimate height, which in turn would provide added rim protection when Williams was off the ground, something the team struggled with at times during the postseason.

The 24-year-old is also a solid screener, using his size to help ball carriers break free on the periphery, and given Udoka’s fluid offensive screening system, Hartenstein could fit right into the game plan.

Most importantly, the Oregon native is a versatile goalscorer, converting 77% of his attempts from the edge, 52% of his looks from floater range, and 32% from three-point range — that kind of goal-scoring ability would work wonders for Boston’s distance, leaving slashes like Jaylen Brown more leeway when cutting in from the wings.

Hartenstein might not be a perfect replacement for Williams as he isn’t a true rim runner, but there’s a strong possibility he would fit better into Udoka’s offensive system than Theis and that alone would ensure his presence would be perceived as an upgrade for those bank unit.

The Theis Dilemma

Daniel Theis has three years left on his current contract, with the final year being a team option. Still, the veteran center will earn an average annual salary of $8.9 million over the next few seasons, and that could prove to be a problem for the Celtics if they decide they need an upgrade to his position.

Theis was acquired by Brad Stevens at the close of trade, and while he seamlessly readjusted to his former teammates during the regular season, his defensive flaws meant he rarely appeared on the floor during the playoffs.

But if the Celtics decide to improve the center position, they’ll need to find a new home for Theis, and given Boston’s perceived unwillingness to part with additional assets, they could be hard pressed to find prospects.

As such, we shouldn’t expect too much from the Celtics when it comes to bringing in another big man unless they feel confident moving away from Theis before the start of the new season. Boston has limited roster spots, and they’re unlikely to be content with plugging up their center rotation as they head into the new season.

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