Last season, I thought Isaiah Hartenstein was a pleasant surprise for the Cleveland Cavaliers in his time with them. He was a trade deadline acquisition from the Denver Nuggets, to go with two future second-round picks (one of which was protected) in exchange for JaVale McGee.
Hartenstein up until that point had not had much opportunity to fill much of a role game-to-game to begin his career with the Houston Rockets, that is in NBA action, not G League action. He did receive some spot minutes to give last season’s MVP Nikola Jokic a breather after signing with Denver last offseason, but he would eventually be dealt for McGee, who was a veteran pickup.
With the Cavaliers from that point, before he would miss most of Cleveland’s closing batch of games in mostly May because of a concussion, Hartenstein was making his presence felt with newfound opportunity. In 17.9 minutes per outing in 16 appearances with the Cavs post-deadline, he had 8.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 blocks per contest.
It did appear that Hartenstein could be re-signed, given that the Cavaliers and him/his representation did have mutual interest after he declined his player option for next season, as far as the offseason. The Cavs did eventually decline his qualifying offer, but the two sides reportedly did have interest in a potential return, even with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley involved.
That said, as the offseason progressed, it seemed less and likely Hartenstein would be back, and more recently, the Cavaliers ended up signing big Tacko Fall via training camp deal at the end of last month. And per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski over the weekend, the LA Clippers signed Hartenstein via camp deal.
Although Hartenstein did show some very encouraging things with the Cavs on both ends, and I believe he could have a legitimate shot at having a backup 5 role with the Clippers, Fall could still have a case to make the Cavs and stick around. That’s as a depth 5, and neither would end up having an every game-type role anyway.
Cavs: He doesn’t have the skill set of Hartenstein, but Fall could be competent as a depth 5.
To get it out there, I’m not saying that Fall will definitely make Cleveland, who at this point has 12 players on guaranteed deals, or with Denzel Valentine’s case, that’s set to be partially-guaranteed for next season.
I’d imagine that Lamar Stevens, even with him non-guaranteed from here, should have a strong case for making the roster, particularly as a situational big wing defender. Maybe fellow non-guaranteed guy Dean Wade could stick around too, as he was a bright spot off the bench last season, and has stretch big abilities.
With Fall though, who was signed via Exhibit 10 deal, he could be a viable depth 5 for some spurts to fill in for the likes of Allen and/or Mobley, or perhaps Lauri Markkanen a bit.