On April 12th, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers clinched a G League title as they beat the Long Island Nets 129-112 at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena in Stony Brook, New Jersey. While that title victory was helped by the duo of Dakarai Tucker and Michael Frazier, who both put up 24 points, the undoubtable leader of that offensive attack was 20-year-old German big Isaiah Hartenstein. In that final game, the 7-footer impressed as he put up 30 points, 18 rebounds and 3 assists on 11-23 from the field, 2-6 from beyond the arc and 6-8 from the free throw line.
That Game 3 performance was the final act of what was a fantastic series for Hartenstein. During the three Finals Games, he exploded by putting up 28 points, 16 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks on 51% from the field and 52% from beyond the arc on 8.3 attempts per game. Following the Vipers Game 3 win, the G League unsurprisingly named the young big as their Finals MVP.
While that play during that series was obviously the pinnacle of his season, it wasn’t the only time that Hartenstein was fantastic with RGV. Although he has a guaranteed contract with the Houston Rockets, the young big spent most of the 2018-19 season in the G League with the Vipers as he played 28 games with the team. During that time, he stood out as arguably the best big in the entire league as he put up 19.4 points, 14.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2 blocks per game on 62% from the field.
Those numbers are a huge improvement over how he was during his rookie year in the league back in 2017-18 when he was just a draft rights prospect for the Rockets. In 38 games with the Vipers, he put up 9.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game on 47% from the field. While those numbers are really solid for a 19-year-old rookie, it’s still amazing to see the progression that he made from that rookie year to 2018-19.
That play during the 2018-19 season becomes even more impressive when you compare him to some of his tall basketball brethren. Among G Leaguers that are 6’7 or taller, he finished the top-10 in points (8th), rebounds (2nd behind Angel Delgado) and assists (3rd). Although he finished behind Delgado in that category, Hartenstein actually had one of the best rebounding seasons in G League history. Dating back to 2007-08, those 14.6 boards per game trails only the Clippers two-way player and Dwayne Jones, who snagged 16.1 rebounds per game back in the 2009-10 season.
His fantastic numbers helped push the Vipers to end the regular season at 34-16, which tied the Santa Cruz Warriors and OKC Blue as the best record in the Western Conference. More important than that, he essentially put the Vipers on his back and guided them to their 3rd G League title in franchise history. Those two qualities has allowed us to name Isaiah Hartenstein as Ridiculous Upside’s G League Assignee of the Year for the 2018-19 season.
Runner Up: Christian Wood (29.3 points, 14 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 56% from field) - Wisconsin Herd/Milwaukee Bucks: Although Christian Wood averaged more points than Hartenstein during the regular season, the biggest reason behind his runner up status deals with the Herd finishing the year with a 12-38 record. Obviously, there’s a lot more to a team’s success, or lack thereof, then the work of a singular player.
However, it’s hard to look past the fact that the Herd were just 9-19 when Wood was on the court. In addition to that, the Herd really weren’t much better when Wood was on the court as they averaged 94.4 points per 100 when he was on the court compared to 92.8 points per 100 when he was either sitting on the sidelines or with the Milwaukee Bucks.