Thunder big Isaiah Hartenstein drops hot take during introductory media session

Newest OKC Thunder big man Isaiah Hartenstein believes his passing skills are top-notch.
Apr 22, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) looks to pass during the first half during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) looks to pass during the first half during game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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The OKC Thunder struggled mightily both on the boards and in the verticality department this past season and during their two-round run in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

Because of this, they made finding a new big man talent a priority this offseason, an agenda that, ultimately, led them to sign former Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein to a lucrative three-year, $87 million contract on just the second day of free agency.

At 7-feet, 249 pounds, the 26-year-old will undoubtedly bring a much-needed boost to their physical makeup within the frontcourt while both his 17.2 rebound percentage and average of 15.5 rebounds per 100 possession for his career are only expected to help improve upon the club's 27-ranked rebounding efforts.

However, size and board gobbling aren't the only two attributes Hartenstein believes he'll be bringing to Oklahoma City, as he made quite a bold claim during his introductory media session regarding his passing abilities that should catch the ears and spark the excitement of Thunder fans.

Isaiah Hartenstein talks up passing skills at Thunder media session

"The style of play really fits me. I'm a high-IQ player. They have a lot of guys who cut. I think, to me, I'm one of the best passers in the NBA. "

Isaiah Hartenstein

Though on the surface, Hartenstein's claim that he views himself as "one of the best passers" in the league today may seem like quite an over exaggeration, based on the advanced metrics and, frankly, the eye-test, there appears to be some merit to his comments.

In two of his last three seasons, the big man has found himself dropping five or more assists per 100 possessions (6.4 in 2021-22 and 5.0 in 2023-24), and on three separate occasions throughout his six-year career he's posted an assist percentage 13.5 or higher, with his best personal mark being 20.5 while with the Clippers a few seasons back.

On top of this, during this past campaign Hartenstein registered an assist-to-turnover ratio of 26.6, which ranked second on the Knicks out of those who logged 1,000 or more minutes played.

To put this into perspective, high-end passers such as Luka Doncic (23.9), Damian Lillard (23.2), and Cade Cunningham (23.8) all had worse ratios, while the only player on the Thunder last season who logged over 15 minutes a night that had as good of a success rate as him was Josh Giddey, who also registered in at 26.6.

Hartenstein would also note in his introductory session that his passing abilities "only came out in the last year," as he spent his debut campaign with New York back in 2022-23 trying to "adapt to a certain role."

Now in Oklahoma City and, presumably, being tasked with a larger and more solidified role within the rotation, the hope is that all of his skills -- rebounding, rim-protecting, and distributing -- will be able to be put on full display as Mark Daigneault and company gun for the franchise's first-ever NBA Championship.

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