New York Knicks: The Tim Hardaway Paradox

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Tim Hardaway Jr. and the New York Knicks are playing well so far this season but is that a good thing?

When Tim Hardaway Jr. was signed to a four-year, $71 million contract with the New York Knicks this summer, most of the NBA world, especially New Yorkers, figured it was a typical Knick overpayment. And, listen, this isn’t about to be an attack on that stance, especially this early in the season. But to be fair, we have to evaluate what our $71 million wing has done so far.

Facts: Hardaway has scored 26 points in three of his last four appearances. Despite the “off games”,  he is a volatile, albeit streaky, high energy shooter wearing No. 3, playing hard-nosed defense next to a humble and generational big man … sound familiar? It should.

Hardaway pushes the ball in transition. He isn’t scared to take big-time shots, and so far, he has shown he can even hit some of them.

That all sounds good, but now let’s look at the numbers, and I’m not talking about basketball stats.

Here is a claim for you: despite Hardaway’s potential, he will keep the Knicks locked financially without the ability to add a star small forward before 2020. Because of his contract, the best situation that can happen is he breaks even on his value in dollars. He can certainly pan out to be worth less than his contract, but comparing him to other contracts around the league, it’s highly unlikely he can be a bargain.

So we get honest value for him. Okay – seems fine. But now throw in the money we owe Enes Kanter … about $35 million over the next two years.

Oh, and the money we donated to Joakim Noah’s kids’ college funds … about $55 million over the next three years.

And, of course, the money we will be more than happy to throw at Kristaps Porzingis when he is up for a new contract in 2020.

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As you can see, the money gets divvied up quicker than you might think. And despite Hardaway’s potential, outside of Noah, he will be the other catalyst that keeps the Knicks locked financially without the ability to add a star small forward. Is he worth it?

The 2020s should be roaring for the New York Knicks, but it will hardly come cheap.

So here is the paradox — you sign a young talented player to what you think he is worth. Logically, this checks out.

But here’s the rub … if you sign players to fairly valued contracts, you can’t build a winning product in today’s league.

Look, the bottom line is that to win in this league, you need a few “good deals” out of big talents. You can’t do it with everyone simply getting paid what they are worth.

Look at the Warriors, who are still thriving with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson playing their heads off on contracts that are beneath them.

Or Durant taking a hit for the team this summer.

Or the Cavs filling their roster with veteran minimums and post-buyout deals.

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But in the New York Knicks case, they will be hard-pressed to get a bargain outside the draft. So the question is: are we loving the wins, or should we still be in tank mode? You be the judge.