- With Phil Jackson gone and Carmelo Anthony on his way out, the Knicks appeared to be on the right track. Then the Tim Hardaway Jr. offer sheet happened.
Slowly but surely, the Knicks were inching toward a future where Carmelo Anthony was elsewhere (whether waiving his no-trade clause, opting out elsewhere in a year or walking after 2019) and Joakim Noah was the team’s only albatross of a contract. Tendering this massive $71 million offer to Tim Hardaway Jr., a flawed player with whom the team is already familiar, effectively nukes that scenario. If the rebuilding Hawks match, they won’t grade much better for this; as it stands, it’s tough to give the Knicks much credit for this line of reasoning.
Hardaway Jr.’s salary starts at $16.5 million next season and ends at nearly $19 million for 2020–21, which is a player option year. His deal also reportedly includes a 15% trade kicker. Why would the Knicks even consider doing this? The answer, one would suppose, is that Hardaway is still just 25, enjoyed a bit of a breakout last season in Atlanta and can shoot the basketball, although he struggles on defense and is not much of a creator offensively.
Hardaway Jr. would be a rotation upgrade for sure, but the financial implications of taking that plunge (when a guy like Dion Waiters signs for $52 million) are steep. When was the last time a young player (not named Porzingis) showed up on the Knicks and took a step forward? You know what you’re getting, it’s unspectacular, and it’s a big dive into a market where many fringy teams have been hesitant to spend in the first place. It’s also a minor slap in the face to tie up that money in Hardaway, and then see Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit the open market less than 24 hours later.
The Knicks waived Marshall Plumlee on Friday and are now a smaller contract or two from being over the cap and being able to access the mid-level exception, which would be helpful if New York had any serious designs on making a splash next season. Courtney Lee is owed $36 million through 2020 and could be flipped elsewhere as a useful player on that reasonable deal.
The Knicks need to sign another point guard and otherwise remain rather directionless. One certainty: New York is going to have to pay big to lock up Porzingis down the line. Unless they find a Melo trade, the Hardaway deal saps them of what could have been attractive flexibility, or at least the cap space to take in someone else’s money and acquire picks. The other thing we know for sure: whoever replaces Phil Jackson in the front office has their work cut out for them.