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Isaiah Hartenstein’s defense could land him a spot on the Rockets

His defense has greatly improved from a year ago.

Screenshot from video on

This may not be what most Rockets fans expect, but after one Summer League game, Isaiah Hartenstein is the most NBA-ready player on the Summer League squad.

Yes, Trevon Duval and Danuel House both looked impressive yesterday, but Hartenstein had a sneaky good, under-the-radar game.

As the team’s starting power forward, he knocked down 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds with four blocks and three steals on the defensive end. He had a very active 25 minutes in yesterday’s win over the Pacers.

In the Rockets’ system, Hartenstein is a stretch-five, a guy that can fulfill the role of the team’s current bigs. He could certainly slot into where Tarik Black played last season and contribute in a handful of games when Clint Capela and/or Nene is hurt or resting.

Black was a rim protector, something that Hartenstein is potentially working his way into. As Darren wrote this past week, the vision the Rockets have for Hartenstein is to fulfill the role Capela has been playing, and like Hartenstein, the Rockets have worked on developing Capela into a big who can protect the rim and flash some range.

The Summer League squad looks very different from the current Rockets squad, as it is a big-heavy team. This puts Hartenstein at the four, but it is very different from his potential role with the Rockets as the team’s five.

In two of the first three highlights below, Hartenstein comes out of his defensive position to come on help-side defense to get the blocks. Usually if he is defending a traditional center, he would be already there clogging the key. But if he is playing a team like the Warriors who have a non-traditional center that plays on the perimeter like Jordan Bell, this would prove to be very useful.

So, yes, Duval and House are going to be interesting to see over the next week or so, but keep an eye out on Hartenstein. He is the guy to watch out for.