EuroDraft #2 — Isaiah Hartenstein (English Version)
A staple on my former publishing channels, my scouting reports on international prospects, mainly europeans, will now have a new home, to give it a fresh look. The goal here is to go over the top international players of this Draft. The next on the board is the german Isaiah Hartenstein, a power forward that might wrongfully draw comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki.
EuroBasket U-18 — per game stats: 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.7 blocks, 4.2 turnovers, 54.4 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 65.5 FT%, 25.7 minutes
Zalgiris Kaunas Regular Season — per game stats: 4.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.1 turnovers, 48.5 FG%, 27.6 3PT%, 69.8 FT%, 11.8 minutes
Listed Position: Power Forward
Offensive Versatility: Can play both big positions
Defensive Versatility: PF that can switch to the perimeter
Archetype: Two-Way Playmaker
Weight: 250 pounds
Among the international prospects, Hartenstein was, alongside Rodions Kurucs, one of the few that played on a club with a higher set of goals and aspirations. Signed by Zalgiris Kaunas at the end of last season, he played the last stretch of it with the B team, until he was integrated with the main roster for this season. The PF position is the deepest on the team, as well the big position as a whole. He was a backup to Paulius Jankunas (starter, international player and one of the best at his position on the Euroleague), Brock Motum (also an international player and the only big able to shoot on the move), Augusto Lima (the best defender on the team), Antanas Kavaliauskas (international player with a magnific beard and also the bruiser of the team) and Roberto Javtokas.
His minutes on the Euroleague were minimal, almost non-existent. Mostly due to the sucess of the team bigs, one of the deepest on the tournament, as well the regular season performance. Different from years past, where Lithuanians were punching bags, scrapping for a Playoff spot and ending 10th. There wasn’t much room to play a 18 year old kid.
On the other side, he was offered a lot of playing time in the Lithuanian league, where Zalgiris easily handles their business and can afford to play the young kids without much worry. In this sense, he played mainly as a center, fighting for rebounds, protecting the rim as well as switching. On offense, the most common play for him was receiving the ball on the post and make a pass or attacking a mismatch out of it (less common). Overall, most of his points came from transition, off-ball cuts, spot-up shooting from three and second chance balls.
A 7-footer with above average fluidity for his size, as well as mobile and quick, Hartenstein is projected as paint player in the NBA. Not the longest defender relative to his height, his winspan is still solid and his timing to protect the rim and play the passing lanes is excellent, rounding off with great block and steal rates (2.7 blocks and 1.7 steals per 40).
Looking at his paint defense, he lacks better fundamentals to deal with traditional bigs with post-up game, but he shows the strength and body to grow on that aspect. His rim protection is featured better on the Pick and Roll, as well on help defense, using light feet to cover smaller guards and showing potential on ICE, a defensive play that is in vogue on the NBA and better executed with mobile bigs, able to cover ground to contest mid-rangers or 3pt shooters.
In regards to his perimeter defense, Hartenstein isn’t the most dependable defender. Historically, he lacks consistency and doesn’t always make the best reads. How will his defense translate to the NBA, where secondary action is happening all the time, making it harder to read and make a decision? Potential wise, the tools are there. He has the mobility and the quickness, along with a strong body and light feet to break penetration.
At an european level, especially as a pro, he was very effective at switching and on-ball perimeter defense. To emphasize, he did a better defensive job outside the youth levels, mostly focus wise. He is very agressive at playing the passing lanes and leaking in transition. Thanks to his mobility, he was able to switch comfortably and not be punished by more athletic opponents from the perimeter. That might change in the NBA but the potential is there to still make it difficult to pass over him and to guard bigger wings.
As a rebounder, Hartenstein is and always was good (11.1 per 40 as a pro, 14.8 per 40 in the youths). He is very active on both sides of the boards, knowing how to use his size and explosion to grab boards in traffic. Sometimes he loses focus mid-air, but in general he does a great job.
Passing, Secondary Creation and Walking Mismatch
Thanks to his quickness, mobility, strength, height, passing ability and above average ball handling for his size, Hartenstein was a walking mismatch on the floor at a youth level and showed flashes of it when he was able to play domestically.
His height made him an easy target to passes under the rim. Although he doesn’t have a polished back to the basket game, he is able to finish with both hands. He wasn’t the best at estabilishing position and not always was able to attack smaller opponents (did a much better job at youth tournaments).
When he gets the ball on a post-up, his best weapon is his passing. He has a knack for cutting, since he is adept at reading the floor at a high speed and, due to being 7-ft, see over defenders. He is a quick decision maker, able to throw one hand bullets right after he touches the ball.
By nature of being a good rebounder and a talented passer, he oftens facilitates in team transition. He has an handle capable of shaking slower bigs and is effective as an outlet passer. As result of his quickness on the open floor, he’s a great target for lobs in transition. He possesses a rare combination of size, speed, passing and instincts.
Even if barely used at a professional level, he shows the capability to create in the half-court, as a playmaker out of the Pick and Roll, or driving to the rim and kicking it to shooters.
Off-ball, his biggest strength lies as a cutter. Not always active, but he positions well from the low post or from the perimeter. Doesn’t get involved much in pick and roll’s or pick and pop’s, but shows potential due to his mobility and touch. His shooting is far from being consistent, which is seen by his shooting splits. His shooting mechanics involves little of his right arm (he’s a lefty), its slow, although with a high release, and an unorthodox side-spin rotation. To be more effective as a floor-spacing big (and to elevate his driving game), he will need to work on his shooting. At times, the defense chose to ignore him.
Consistency and Basketball IQ
As talented as Hartenstein is, the questions surrounding him as a prospect were always about consistency and decision making. The german player is very effusive on the court, complaining a lot to the officials, getting frustrated several times and even gets hunched over, not in a stance and ready to react. His defensive activity comes and goes, albeit of constantly showing a competitive and energetic mood. He has been taking small steps on Zalgiris, but he needs more.
Despite being a talented passer, his basketball IQ is questionable. He commits a lot of mistakes, picking the hardest or flashiest play instead of the easiest one, ending with a AST:TO ratio beyond bad, besides making ill-advised mistakes, such as travels when he was open. Certainly, it was his decision making that led to him play such limited minutes at a pro level. Top tier teams in Europe only play young players when they are ready for it. To his luck, the NBA is more open on that subject.
If he’s able to improve his decision making and shooting, his ceiling is very high. In the modern NBA, bigs that space the floor, make good passes and offer versatility defensively are very valuable nowadays. He’s not that big of a project due to his athletic and technical attributes, but what needs to be adressed is his decision making, something that can be improved over time, but not always something every prospect can fix. Will he be another Anthony Randolph? Maybe. On the right team, he has everything to grow and be an impactful player. Thankfully, he already has began to show signs of development from the previous season.
Draft projection: Between 15–25
Note: Translated by Rui Pinto