Our staff roundtable grades continue with a look at Isaiah Hartenstein, the Clippers’ primary backup center in the 2022 season.

Kenneth Armstrong: B+

Isaiah exceed expectations and earned himself a good contract for next year and beyond. I am not sure if the Clippers will (or should) try to bring him back, but it is undeniable that he was a major contributor. His playmaking, ability to score in different ways, and his overall hustle was much needed on this year’s available Clippers roster. He did not get an “A” from me for a few reasons: 1) His defense and propensity for getting into foul trouble was a problem all year; 2) The Clippers got killed on the boards all year long and, given that he was the biggest guy on the floor whenever he was out there, he has to take some of the blame for that; and, 3) He was not available enough. While it’s not his fault that he got hurt and struggled with his recovery even after he reentered the lineup, availability goes into the grade. For what it’s worth, I would like to see the Clippers search for a super athletic big who can go grab a ton of offensive rebounds and be disruptive on defense. While Isiah is a valuable player, the Clippers’ shouldn’t need offense or playmaking from the backup center position when everyone is healthy. 

Ralston Dacanay: A

There’s really nothing not to like about the year Isaiah Hartenstein just had. After battling out Moses Wright, Harry Giles III and, eventually, Serge Ibaka for the full-time backup center spot, Hartenstein continued to consistently produce and show promise as an athletic, high IQ player on both ends of the floor. By my count, the guy didn’t miss a floater all year. As Rob pointed out in his piece on him, Hartenstein had an assist percentage of 20.5%, which was higher than any Clipper but the primary ball-handlers in Paul George, Reggie Jackson and Eric Bledsoe. Hartenstein, of course, also had a great connection with Luke Kennard almost immediately since training camp and seems to have nice ties with both Paul George and Robert Covington. For a team in which it’s been highly emphasized that the locker room must be a safe haven for good vibes, Hartenstein, a talented player on a non-guaranteed, minimum deal in a contract year, appears to have still managed to fit the bill perfectly, even being one of my personal favorite Clippers to follow on social media all season for his posts and comments hyping himself and his teammates up. With him being set to turn just 24-years-old next month, it would be great to see LAC bring him back, although he could probably get better offers elsewhere from teams that don’t rely nearly as much on small ball as the Clips.

Lucas Hann: A

Hart has his flaws as a player, sure, but for a guy on a non-guaranteed minimum who made the team in training camp, he had an absolute home run season. I was higher on Hart than most coming in (I would have given him a guaranteed contract, but thought he was good enough to go somewhere with guaranteed minutes instead of competing with Zu and Serge), and I was still blown away by how good he was this season.  He helped the Clippers win a lot of games with his energy and passing.  The chaos he creates also hurt in some inopportune moments, but on the aggregate there’s no doubt: he blew any reasonable expectations for his season out of the water and gave the Clippers a ton of value from their 15th roster spot.

Shapan Debnath: B+

Relative to expectations coming into the season, it’s hard not give Hart an A for the year, but he recalibrated expectations with his strong start of season play. Because of that, it was easier to notice his flaws as the year went on. He went from a surefire bench player with some upside to start to a CLEAR bench player with notable flaws to end the year, with particularly streaky play on both ends due to some up and down decision making. Hart is a work in progress, and he’s played well enough that his upside is very enticing for a team short on money to spend.

Dave Mendez-Yapkowitz: A

For a guy who wasn’t even guaranteed to make the final roster at the beginning the 2022 season, the Clippers sure found a gem in Isaiah Hartenstein. There were plenty of games this season where he changed the momentum with his energy off the bench. He outplayed Serge Ibaka out of a spot in the rotation and developed nice chemistry with the rest of the bench. He does have his limitations as a player, but his passing ability and improving offense is something the Clippers need off the bench. He enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent and will no doubt have other offers based on his play this season. Clippers should do what they can to keep him around for as reasonable a contract as they can. You won’t find many better backup centers.

Cole Huff: B+

Isaiah was nearly outstanding for the first bit of the season, which is impressive for a guy who had been signed to a non-guaranteed deal. His passing and feel for the game was obviously what jumped off the page, but his finishing out of the pick and roll turned out to be just as big of an asset. Even his 3-point shot, while frustrating at times, became a utility. I ultimately believe that ankle injury he suffered that forced him to miss a good chunk of time kind of put a damper in his debut season with the Clips — he wasn’t really himself again until the latter part of the season. Still, Hartenstein was a fine backup big that has his strengths and weaknesses. I’d welcome him back for another season.

Robert Flom: A

I wrote extensively about Isaiah Hartenstein for his Exit Interview, but in short, he exceeded expectations more than anyone else on the 2022 Clippers roster this season maybe barring Amir Coffey. He earned a spot in the rotation, outplayed Serge Ibaka for the backup center spot, and gave the Clippers positive minutes nearly all year outside of when he was first recovering from his ankle injury in January. His playmaking, energy, and defense (yes, defense) were huge for a Clippers’ second unit that was frequently short at least one of those items. He’s not a good rebounder and he fouls too much, but those are nitpicks for one of the best backup centers in the NBA who the Clippers essentially picked off the scrap heap.

Leave your thoughts and grades on Isaiah Hartenstein’s 2022 season below!

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