Fischer’s Latest: Hartenstein, Thunder, Claxton, Valanciunas, Cavs

There are few – if any – NBA free-agents-to-be whose stocks improved more in the postseason than Isaiah Hartenstein, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who suggests the Knicks big man has a case to be considered the best center on the free agent market this summer.

Nets big man Nic Claxton, widely viewed the top option at the position, is considered likely receive at least $20-25MM annually, according to previous reports. Fischer says there’s a belief around the NBA that Hartenstein could end up in that neighborhood too, with league executives and cap strategists speculating he might sign for $80-100MM. The Knicks would be limited to offering up to $72.5MM over four years using their Early Bird rights.

According to Fischer, the Thunder are the possible Hartenstein destination mentioned most frequently by team executives, despite the fact that he seems “incongruent” with the playing style they established en route to the No. 1 seed in the West this past season. Fischer suggests Hartenstein’s ability as a passer and screener to bring a new dimension to Oklahoma City, while his rebounding would improve one of the league’s worst teams in that area.

Hartenstein almost signed with the Magic before joining the Knicks, Fischer notes, but it’s unclear whether Orlando would still be a fit, given Moritz Wagner‘s emergence in the frontcourt during the last couple seasons and Jonathan Isaac‘s return to health. The team also rebuffed trade offers for Wendell Carter at February’s deadline, Fischer adds, which indicates he’s part of the plans going forward.

The Pistons are another team with cap room that has been frequently linked to Hartenstein over the years, per Fischer, but it’s unclear whether new head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon will share that interest or whether Detroit will be in the market for a center this summer.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • Addressing Claxton’s free agency, Fischer says that NBA personnel have “long prepared” for the 25-year-old to remain with the Nets. If the two sides are able to reach an agreement between the end of the Finals and the start of free agency, it would improve Hartenstein’s leverage on the open market.
  • Pelicans big man Jonas Valanciunas is another starting-caliber center on track for unrestricted free agency this offseason, but league executives don’t anticipate a huge payday for the Lithuanian, forecasting a deal in the range of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (approximately $12.9MM), Fischer writes.
  • The Cavaliers don’t seem motivated to listen to trade inquiries on any of their core four of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley, sources tell Fischer. It’s unclear if that will change later in the offseason — if Mitchell signs an extension to remain in Cleveland, it’s possible that Garland would seek a change of scenery. For what it’s worth, head of basketball operations Koby Altman has stated publicly that he doesn’t anticipate making “sweeping changes” to the roster in the coming months.
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