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Knicks reportedly testing Mitchell Robinson trade waters with Hartenstien likely to stay in New York

Sacramento Kings v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 04: Mitchell Robinson #23 of the New York Knicks prepares to enter the game during the second half against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden on April 04, 2024 in New York City. The Knicks won 120-109. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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Sometimes NBA free agency is a game of connect the dots. It’s that way with the Knicks big men right now.

The Oklahoma City Thunder just traded for Alex Caruso, who gives them a defense-first guard likely to start next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (and makes their starting five look Celtics-like). Caruso is in the final year of his contract and can sign an extension in December (six months after the trade) for up to four years, $78.8 million. Oklahoma City has more than $33 million in cap space this summer but will keep a lot of that in reserve to extend Carusso. That means the Thunder appear to be out of the market for Isaiah Hartenstein, OKC was rumored to be considering a big short-term (two-year) contract offer to land the New York center.

Now it looks like Hartenstein will stay with the Knicks this summer, which has New York testing the trade waters for Mitchell Robinson, reports Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports.

Hartenstein, at this moment, is now generally expected to return to New York, as the Knicks have contacted opposing teams about moving Mitchell Robinson, sources said.

Robinson was a defensive force for the Knicks as a rim protector, but he battled injuries through much of last season. With Robinson down through the playoffs, Hartenstein stepped up and made himself a lot of money. The Knicks max the Knicks can offer him is four years, $72.5 million, and that appears to be enough. Robinson has two years, $27.2 million left on his contract — a reasonable contract that should draw interest around the league.

However, a lot of teams are looking to trade big men on larger contracts, Fischer adds.

League personnel told Yahoo Sports the Bucks are open to reshaping their roster, and they are gauging the trade value for Brook Lopez... Atlanta, sources said, continues to pursue deals for veteran center Clint Capela, who’s entering the final year of a contract that still owes the 30-year-old rim protector $22 million. Rival teams believe Utah is willing to engage in trade talks that would part ways with Jazz second-year center Walker Kessler. And the Detroit Pistons are evaluating the market for Isaiah Stewart, according to league sources.

That’s a lot of big men on the market, and the draft has players such as Donovan Clingan and Zach Edey who can step in now and play minutes as a backup five (the Thunder are rumored to be eyeing those two as potential Chet Holmgren backups).

Look for a lot of big men to be on the move this summer as teams want to reshape rosters, lower tax bills and move toward more five-out lineups. The Knicks Robinson could be one of them.