The Cleveland Cavaliers may have pulled off quite the heist at the NBA trade deadline. As a true 7-footer, Isaiah Hartenstein has brought some much needed size to a Cavaliers roster that had lacked a true backup center, at least one that could realistically stick around.
Included as part of the Cavs’ only deadline day deal as more of a throw-in, Hartenstein has already started to have an impact on the court. In three games with the team he’s managed to accumulate averages of 8.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 21.0 minutes per contest.
Prior to joining the Cavs, Hartenstein was buried on the Denver Nuggets depth chart behind the likes of a perennial All-NBAer Nikola Jokic, 4x All-Star Paul Millsap, and JaMychal Green. With that type of talent in from of him, he rarely saw the floor for more than 11-12 minutes a game.
Hartenstein just needed an opportunity to showcase his rather impressive skillset on a team that could provide him with ample time to develop away from the pressure and spotlight of a potential NBA title contender.
Enter the Cavaliers, a team that could possibly offer him a defined role in which he could be more than just another big body to throw out there so that a player like Jokic could take a quick breather.
The Cavs began the year flush with big men. Andre Drummond, Larry Nance Jr., JaVale McGee, Thon Maker, Dean Wade, and Marques Bolden (via two-way deal) all were listed on the opening day roster. That’s without even mentioning the recently-returned Kevin Love, who only suited up for the team’s initial second game before going on an extended absence due to injury.
Of the players mentioned above, only Love, Nance Jr. and Wade remain on the roster. The team also acquired center Jarrett Allen and small/power forward Taurean Prince in the early-season blockbuster that was James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
Allen (Concussion) and Nance Jr. (illness) have missed the Cavs’ last few games. This has opened the door for Hartenstein to play significant minutes in an effort to prove he belongs within the rotation perhaps taking over the role that McGee vacated via the trade.
In his first three games with the Cavs, Hartenstein has displayed three promising attributes, of which we’ll highlight here.
The first has to do with him showing promising passing abilities.
#1: Impressive vision at his size, which could really help the Cavs looking onward
Hartenstein’s Cavalier debut was quite the barn burner. Normally a loss of the blowout variety via the score of 114-75 would be cause for concern, but there was in fact a bright side, annihilation aside. The second-year man dished out a game-high seven assists. What’s more, Hartenstein didn’t force the issue and only committed one turnover.
Although he didn’t record more than one assist in the next two games, his ability to keep the rock moving and work as a secondary facilitator out of the post is now evident.
With Nance Jr. missing time, the Cleveland Cavaliers should certainly benefit from having another big man that can replicate a similar skill that he possesses in the short term. While Hartenstein may never be the type of skilled big that his former teammate Jokic was, he may have picked up a few things from him in his limited time with the Nuggets.
From there, Hartenstein has shown some encouraging signs in terms of stretch big qualities.