Houston Rockets: Is This the Year Hartenstein Stays on the Roster?

Houston Rockets Isaiah Hartenstein (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Isaiah Hartenstein (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Rockets still have a need for a third center on the roster as they’ve got only Clint Capela and Tyson Chandler. Could Isaiah Hartenstein be that guy? Here’s how he can help his cause!

Isaiah Hartenstein was drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft with the 43rd pick. Hartenstein hasn’t been able to stick with the Rockets for either of his first 2 seasons, as he’s been sent to the G-League’s Rio Grande Vipers each year.

While playing for the Vipers last season, Hartenstein averaged 19.4 points, 14.9 rebounds and 2 blocks per contest, which is significantly better than the 9.5 points 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks he averaged during his rookie year. In addition, he led the Vipers to a G-League championship on top of being named the Finals MVP.

During the Finals, Hartenstein posted averages of 28 points, 15.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. As if these numbers weren’t already impressive enough, Hartenstein shot an insane 52% from distance on 25 attempts! If Harty can shoot like that from deep, he would become a serious matchup nightmare for other centers in the NBA.

It’s not as if this is an anomaly either, as Hartenstein shot 34.3% from deep during his first season in the G-League but he saw that dip down to 27.4% this past season. If Hartenstein can shoot 33-35% from deep, the Rockets will be more than happy with that. During the 28 games he played for the Rockets last year, he shot 33.3% from deep, so he’s shown the ability to shoot at a fairly good percentage from downtown for a center.

Hartenstein also played in the Summer League, posting averages of 16 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game before being shut down due to injury. Hartenstein finished second on the team in scoring behind Chris Clemons and second in steals behind Gary Clark, while leading the team in rebounds.

But will he make the rotation for the Rockets this year, after playing in only 28 games for the squad last year? Obviously Capela will be the unquestioned starter at center, and the backup will be the newly acquired Tyson Chandler. But the Rockets let go of Deyonta Davis and failed to re-sign Kenneth Faried in the same off-season that saw Nene decline his player option and opt out. Obviously there’s a need for another big.

Clint Capela dealt with injuries last season, and Chandler will be 37 years old when the regular season starts. Chandler can certainly still contribute, but he likely can’t be relied upon to play more than 16 minutes per game, which is what he averaged last season. So that would be the entry point for Harty onto the Rockets roster.

Harty would be a great third center on the roster, as he’s a legitimate 7 foot shot blocker, and his presence would allow the Rockets to have solid defense regardless of which center is on the floor. Not to mention the aforementioned three point shooting ability, which would seem to pencil his spot in the rotation.

The major cause for concern as it pertains to Hartenstein is his inconsistency at the free throw line. During the Summer League, Harty shot 71.4% from the free throw line, which isn’t too far off from the 78.6% he averaged while playing for the Rockets last season. But his G-League free throw shooting this past season was very troubling, as he shot 64.6% from the line, which is lower than the 70.8% he averaged over the course of the Finals. Harty will need to consistently shoot 75-78% from the line for the Rockets if he wants to stay in the rotation and not get sent back to the G-League.

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Either way, he’ll have to earn a spot on the Rockets during training camp. Personally, I’m expecting Harty to come to camp ready to show the Rockets he belongs on the roster. Hopefully his injury from the Summer League is fully healed and he’ll be without limitations!