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Clippers vs. Timberwolves preview: Isaiah Hartenstein is cleared for take off

The 23-year-old is still on the bubble.

Denver Nuggets v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

With many new, unfamiliar faces and superstars playing for only a few minutes at a time, NBA preseason can be confusing. One thing is for sure, though: Isaiah Hartenstein has been putting on a show on both ends of the floor with his ferocious dunks and exhilarating blocks.

But don’t let those short highlight clips fool you. He’s also had his fair share of struggles in preseason.

In his first game in Clipper colors, the four-year NBA player looked lost. He put up four turnovers — an offensive foul, two bad passes, and one 3-second violation — in 14 and a half minutes of play. Although his two turnovers off of pass attempts were good in intention (he looked to connect to a cutting Terance Mann for an easy bucket in the paint both times), the passes were either a second too slow or too predictable. So, the defense collapsed on Mann before he could get his hands on the ball. Whether it was because of his minus-16 plus/minus or his lackluster stat line, he didn’t make a very good first impression.

In the next game against the Kings, he showed glimpses of his passing prowess. This time only with one turnover, he found cutting runners with sharp bounce passes and made use of his 7’0 frame to free up shooters after a smooth handoff. Despite his three assists, he still could to do more to convince Tyronn Lue that he deserved a spot on the talent-filled Clippers roster.

Hartenstein did just that in his third game as a Clipper. At Dallas, he stuffed the stat sheet with an impressive 16 points, five assists, eight rebounds, and two blocks. Competing for the third-center spot against Harry Giles, Hartenstein showed what he is capable of. Unlike Serge Ibaka, Ivica Zubac, or Giles, Hartenstein is quicker to zip bounce passes to cutters and feed shooters easy, open looks running around him. In addition, he can reach high altitudes to punish opposing centers with his emphatic dunks and meet people at the rim — a skill other Clippers bigs also possess.

Hartenstein makes his presence felt in the paint. In the first quarter against the Mavericks, he clogged the lane to stop Trey Burke, then quickly rotated to deny Josh Green what could have been an easy dunk.

In the third quarter, he surprised the NBA world as he rolled to posterize Eugene Omoruyi. He fearlessly rose above the opposing forward and finished strongly for an and-1.

From his best game (yet) as a Clipper, we can see how high Hartenstein’s ceiling is (both literally and metaphorically). He is a young athletic big with soft hands and an eye for play-making, and the German-American has one more game to show, again, who he can be for this franchise. Hartenstein will suit up against the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of a home crowd. Will he be able to pass the test against a two-time All-Star center in Karl-Anthony Towns? He and the Clippers will have to if they want to bounce back from their back-to-back losses.


Game Information

When: Monday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Toyota Arena, Ontario CA

How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 Radio

Opposing perspective: Canis Hoopus

Injuries/Absences

Clippers: Ivica Zubac (right shoulder strain) — QUESTIONABLE; Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT

Timberwolves: Jordan McLaughlin (right groin strain) — QUESTIONABLE