The Houston Rockets made their feelings known about 21-year-old (then 20) center Isaiah Hartenstein, when they signed him to a three-year, $3.9 million deal last summer. They’ve often referred to Hartenstein as “Capela-lite”, and as they’ve let him develop in the G-League, it’s easy to see why.
Hartenstein played 26 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers this year, averaging 19.5 points, 14.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2 blocks per game. He was even better in the playoffs, when he led the Vipers to the G-League championship and was named G-League Finals MVP in the process.
In the Vipers’ 2-1 victory over the Long Island Nets, Hartenstein averaged 28 points, 15.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 blocks on 51 percent shooting from the field. He also knocked down 13 triples in the three games, showcasing a developing part of his game that could endear him to the Rockets’ coaching staff. He went for 33 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks in Game 2, then followed that up with 33 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in a series-deciding Game 3 victory.
Unfortunately, he has yet to duplicate that success with the varsity squad. He played in 29 contests for the Rockets this year, averaging just 8 minutes per game. Although you can see the potential, he wasn’t quite ready yet for the big time, though I fully expect that to change this coming season.
With Nene’s future up in the air (retirement rumors are about) and Kenneth Faried no lock to be back with the team, Hartenstein should have a legit opportunity to earn some backup center minutes behind Clint Capela.
He brings height (7’0”), athleticism, and shot blocking to do some of the same things as Capela, especially off of the pick-and-roll, and if he can continue to develop that shot, not just from deep but also outside of that three-foot area next to the bucket, he has a chance to really make an impact.
Hartenstein, for his part, has cherished the time the team has given him to develop, and sounds ready to take that next step, saying:
“The Rockets are committed. They’ve been there and by putting me on assignment (in the G-League), I know they want me to get better. We’re constantly talking about what comes next. I have goals that they’re helping me achieve. It’s a special organization.”
Looking forward to seeing Hart in action next season. One of Houston’s largest needs is a big who can work down low but can also drain the jumper if needed. If Hartenstein can continue to develop, that guy might already be on the roster.