The 2017 NBA Draft is complete. This year, the Rockets only had one pick. With the 43rd overall pick, they drafted Isaiah Hartenstein, a 19-year-old from Zalgiris. In the 2016 FIBA Under-18 Championship, he represented Germany and averaged 14.7 PPG and 9.5 RPG in six games. When drafted, Fran Fraschilla noted that Hartenstein could have been a lottery talent if he waited one more year to enter the draft.
At 7’0, Hartenstein brings a lot to the table for the Rockets. Hartenstein works well in the pick and roll on both ends of the floor. On the offensive end, he rolls off the screen well and can either roll to the rim or the perimeter, which will keep the defense on their heels. When rolling to the rim, he does it quickly, which might not give time for the defense to recover, leading to an easy bucket.
James Harden and Clint Capela have worked well in the pick and roll together, and giving Harden another threat there will help. On the defensive end of the pick and roll, he has shown the ability to defend the guards on the switch. He also isn’t shy to shoot from the perimeter, which can help spread the floor and keep the lane open for other Rockets attacking the rim. While his perimeter shot is not automatic yet, he is still a threat from there and defenders will have to respect it.
A great attribute from Hartenstein is his rim running. In the fast break, he can get from one side of the court to the other quickly. That will help the guards for the Rockets as they have a big running with them and getting the easy bucket. And with Hartenstein being a perimeter threat as well, he can either run to the rim or spread out to the perimeter on the fast break, which is a tendency of the Rockets. He has also shown flashes of being a good passer. When the game is slowed down, that is when he does his best as a passer. Hartenstein is unselfish and will look to make the extra pass for a better shot and better ball movement overall.
Part of the reason the Rockets were able to land Hartenstein so late was a back condition noted by NBA doctors. Because of that, teams were afraid to draft him earlier, when it is clear his talents make him a higher pick. With Houston being one of the best medical cities in the country, hopefully they can work out any issues with Hartenstein’s back and keep him at full health.
As of right now, the Rockets and Hartenstein might be at a crossroads. He has made it clear that he wants to be on the roster next season, while the Rockets are not sure what they plan to do yet. There is a possibility he becomes a draft-and-stash player for the next year or so. But if the Rockets decide to have him on the roster, he has the potential to see playing time and give a glimpse of what he can do for the team going forward. His agent is B.J. Armstrong, so hopefully there is not another issue like there was with Donatas Motiejunas.