New York Signs Hardaway Jr (to an Offer Sheet) for $71M/4 Years

A number of news outlets are reporting that:

Restricted Atlanta Hawks free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. has signed a four-year, $71 million offer sheet with the New York Knicks, league sources told ESPN.

Hardaway, a 25-year-old shooting guard, has spent the past two seasons in Atlanta after spending his first two in New York.

The Hawks will have two days to match the offer. which contains a 15 percent trade kicker and a player option in the fourth year, per ESPN sources.

Tim Hardaway Jr. isn’t an awful player (see: Waiters, Dion). He’s an efficient scorer (56.8% ts%, 19.1 pts/36 last year) and is only 25 years old, so the Knicks would presumably get his best years. Hardaway also has good assist and turnover numbers as well (3.0 ast/36, 1.8 to/36). According to 82games, Hardaway appears to be a neutral defender (-0.4 pts/100).

I don’t hate this deal because Hardaway will likely keep some value during the life of his contract, unlike Joakim Noah or even Carmelo Anthony. The next Knicks GM should be able to get something in return for Hardaway, and not have to look for a place to unload his contract. [EDIT: Reports are that the contract has a 15% trade kicker, so *le sigh*.]

But there’s plenty to dislike about the signing. Shooting guard is a position the Knicks don’t really need. New York already has Courtney Lee and promising rookie Damyean Dotson. In fact the Knicks have more immediate critical needs at PG and SF (and if they trade ‘Melo, PF). If the front office wanted to put a stronger team on the floor in 2017, Tim Hardaway Jr. won’t make as much of an impact. He’s not a huge upgrade over Courtney Lee. Additionally he stunts the growth of Dotson, who unless Lee is moved, won’t see many minutes at MSG.

And while the Knicks are only slightly overpaying Hardaway (he most likely would have gotten $12M – $15M on the market), it’s not the right time for them to commit so much money. New York would be smarter to go with a cheaper option (Justin Holiday), build around their young core of players (Porzingis, Hernangomez, Ntilikina, Dotson, Kuzminskas), and save that money for a top notch free agent that can integrate with what develops from their young talent.

The problem with this acquisition is that is smacks of nearsightedness. It’s the same tactic that over the last 17 years has doomed the team. The Knicks are not in a position for a quick fix. They are not a score-first shooting guard away from competing with Cleveland or Boston (or even Washington or Toronto). Deals like this might take them from 31 wins to 35 wins or even 40 wins. But by aiming for that mark, they’ll always miss the opportunity to build a 50 or 60 win team. And more often than not, with splashy moves like this they’ll fail to reach even their meager short term goals.

Signing Hardaway for 4 years at $18M per year isn’t awful in a vacuum, but the 2017 New York Knicks are not the right context for this deal.

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