By John Schmeelk
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The Knicks couldn’t quite make it a full week without doing the type of foolish things they usually do.
For a few moments, they let fans believe they may have figured out the concepts of patience and flexibility and how they can be beneficial to a team’s long-term outlook. Then they promptly returned to form Thursday night by giving Tim Hardaway an offer sheet for $71 million over four years, with a 15 percent trade kicker and a player option in the final year of the contract.
Hardaway is not a bad player. He is much better than he was when he was with the Knicks in 2015. His defense has improved. He shot a career-best .455 last season, including 36 percent from behind the arc. He is only 25 years old. All those are good things, but the Knicks’ offer to him is far too large.
Kevin Arnovitz tweeted Thursday night that the Hawks were thinking of something in the neighborhood of $45 million for Hardaway. That number would have been far more reasonable and in line with other players in his class. With a lot of money already invested in Kent Bazemore, it is unlikely that Atlanta matches New York’s offer.
Comparing Hardaway’s deal to others that have been signed this offseason shows the disconnect rather clearly:
Dion Waiters: 4 years, $52 million
Tony Snell: 4 years, $46 million
Andre Roberson: 3 years, $30 million
Langston Galloway: 3 years, $21 million
Justin Holiday: 2 years, $9 million
Kyle Korver: 3 years, $22 million
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a player many would argue is superior to Hardaway, is still on the market. So is Jonathan Simmons.
You can sit and argue how to rank Hardaway with the players listed above, but it would be far easier to ask simple questions like, is Hardaway worth 20 percent more on a yearly basis than Waiters and Snell? Is he more than four times better than Holiday? Is he nearly twice as good as Roberson?
The likely answer most people would have to most of those questions is no.
The bottom line is that the moment Hardaway puts pen to paper the Knicks will have two contracts on their books that are virtually unmovable, including Joakim Noah’s deal, which has three years left. Hardaway’s contract isn’t nearly as bad due to his youth, health, and potential upside, but it’s still wildly inflated. It’s still a mistake that will cripple the Knicks’ flexibility to help acquire future assets or a true different maker.
Hardaway is also going to play a position that could have been manned by some combination of the Knicks’ two draft picks this year: Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson. Both those players could have contributed at shooting guard, making Hardaway even less of a need. Though younger, is Hardaway even a better player than Courtney Lee, who the Knicks have signed to a much smaller contract?
To show just how dysfunctional the Knicks are, they traded Hardaway for the rights to Jerian Grant. They then packaged Grant and Robin Lopez for Derrick Rose. Now, since they felt they had to go over the top to prevent the Hawks from matching, they just renounced their rights to Rose and offered Hardaway a king’s ransom. So they lost Lopez for the right to overpay for Hardaway.
In terms of impact, it is hard to figure out how this deal will well. Hardaway’s presence isn’t going to have any meaningful impact on turning the Knicks into a contender. Perhaps he helps them win a few more games, which will take them further away from a potential top-three pick that could net them the second star they need to put with Kristaps Porzingis.
It’s logical to believe this deal means the Knicks have another trade in place for Lee, but then again logic rarely applies to this franchise. It should have been safe to assume that they wouldn’t make a big offer like this to Hardaway until after they had hired a new team president. There has also been news that the Houston Rockets are trying to move a bunch of their non-guaranteed contracts for assets. There’s a chance those efforts could be related to trying to put together a deal for Carmelo Anthony.
There’s no telling where the Knicks will go next, now that it’s obvious their temporary restraint had far more to do with the inability to close other deals than some grand strategy. Once the Hawks decline to match in the next 48 hours, it would not surprise me to see them make a couple of other moves in rapid succession.
Knicks fans should hold their breath because their immediate future could very well be decided by the end of the weekend. At the very least, the team appears to be targeting younger players. Praying they target the right ones is advised.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk