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Detailing Isaiah Hartenstein’s Impressive Play

Hartenstans unite! After Isaiah Hartenstein‘s impressive play in the preseason, he is proving that his production is not fool’s gold.

For now.

Hartenstein treated the fans to an array of assists during the Clippers’ exhibition games. During his first two regular-season games, he impressed with his usual passing and surprised some with his subtle scoring ability. He is not regarded as a long-term solution as the team’s backup center, but his play to start the season is creating an intriguing subplot regarding the center rotation.

Detailing Isaiah Hartenstein’s Impressive Play

STAPLES Center was on fire after Isaiah Hartenstein finished an and-one lob from forward Nicolas Batum in the team’s season opener. His play has been a hot topic of conversation among Clipper Nation. Not only did the big man win over the fan base in the preseason, but some are calling for the four-year center to have an increased role in the regular season. A minority of fans are even suggesting that Hartenstein remain the backup center when Serge Ibaka returns from injury.

In the preseason, Hartenstein displayed great passing, screen setting, and decent defense. To start the regular season, he did not let up. In 16 minutes, Hartenstein is averaging 10 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists on 81.8% shooting.

What is most shocking about Hartenstein’s stat profile, is that he leads the team in net rating (36.8) and defensive rating (71.1). However, it is important to acknowledge the scanty sample size of two games. But it is still impressive given the team has no secondary All-Star to lead the second unit.

“I’m just going to let the… whatever the game gives me. Big thing to me is just to win and so whatever the team needs from me,” Hartenstein said in his post-game media availability. That mentality is one that the Clippers are looking for to maintain their team-first culture. A culture that is reliant on trust and unselfishness so that Ty Lue can make necessary adjustments to help the team win.

The Center Position’s Role in the Offense

Hartenstein is not only a screen setter and roller. He is an initiator of the offense. In many of the Clippers’ offensive sets, the center acts as a playmaker. Responsibilities for the big men include executing effective dribble hand-offs into solid screens, reversing to the opposite side when there is no opening, and creating offense when the main options are stagnated.

There are instances in which Ivica Zubac turns into a playmaker when Paul George is blitzed on a screen. In these situations, Zubac has shown great patience. When he receives the ball, he does a good job of looking opposite, as the weak-side defender slides down to pick him up, leading to an open shooter or cutter for him to hit.

Though Hartenstein has only played with George for eight minutes this season, he needs to be able to make the same plays that Zubac is excellently executing with him.

Hartenstein’s passing is notably his strongest skill as a player. However, he displayed impressive improvisation with his surprising set of offensive moves. There were instances in which the big had no hand-off or backdoor options and thus opted to attack on his own. His array of floaters and scoop shots have been a delightful surprise for Lue and fans. The offensive package is far from complete. But Hartenstein is doing the job he is asked for and continues to impress as the season progresses.

Verdict: Give Hartenstein More Minutes

There will be matchups in which Hartenstein will not be as effective (cc: Golden State Warriors). However, the small-ball minutes may be taxing on the older veteran forwards. Especially throughout the long regular season. To mitigate this, Lue’s utilization of Hartenstein should be expanded, given matchups are not detrimental to the defense.

Certain teams will require certain lineups and it is too early in the season to jump to drastic conclusions. But for the time being, Hartenstein has proved that he is well-deserving of the backup center minutes.

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