Tim Hardaway Jr. received $71 million. Really. For playing basketball. Four years. From the New York Knicks.
I will admit. This wrinkled my feathers more than a little. Tim was a player that just a couple years back contributed to us missing out on Karl Anthony Towns and someone who didn’t take the game seriously enough after learning from possibly the worst person you can off on the bench in JR Smith. What was next? Should NYK bring back the whole crew from our 54 win glory days? Shump’s available too! He celebrated like him, chucked similar shots and was destined to be a decent sixth man until leaving for Atlanta on a draft night trade that brought Jerian Grant here. Grant, of course, was then traded with Robin Lopez for Derrick Rose – a move that hasn’t paid dividends but didn’t hurt us long term like this contract very well might and Joakim Noah’s amazing contract and package deal that failed to get former President Phil Jackson a discount. Two straight offseasons of making the league laugh with the contracts given and the organization had to renounce D-Rose’s rights to do it instead of potentially sign and trading him to Milwaukee for a few pieces. Mike Budenholzer essentially had to tear THJ apart and build him up from scratch, which was no small task. Hardaway Jr. was sent down to the development leagues just a year and a half ago and constantly benched for not putting effort on defense. Now he’s a man who will be making life changing money at the Knicks’ expense.
What will happen if he gets back into those old habits and doesn’t have a coach to constantly berate him? If he doesn’t play as efficiently as he did in 2017? In his introductory presser that wasn’t much of a press conference, the 25 year old made it a point to keep saying how much he had matured since leaving the Big Apple. There are obvious differences when you look at him now too. He’s in much better shape, has grown a pretty big beard and can still talk with the best of them. After all, he did have a father who was decent in the NBA molding him. I still wish he would listen to some of Senior’s advice from when he was still in Michigan: get to the basket and create a shot off the dribble. His all around game needs improvement as he’s not active on the other sides of the ball in rebounding with his good size for a two guard and passing the ball. What will make his deal a success is not scoring the basketball. We already know he can do that as he averaged 17 PPG when starting and after Kyle Korver was shipped to the Cavs. Seventeen points does not make someone worth $17.7 million annually necessarily. He needs to eclipse that as soon as next season while deferring to the team’s real young stud in Kristaps Porzingis. Plus, Dion Waiters would’ve came at a fraction of the price considering he got $50 million from Miami along with doing more things. Couldn’t we have just gave Jr. $60 million? Who were we bidding against? Overpaying by about $25 million does not make good basketball sense, more so in a salary cap where you could use every last dollar and not flush an extra $6 million down the drain. Some the stipulations in the agreement like the 15% trade kicker and half of the money due every September 1st raise more than a few eyebrows for a player just slightly above average. Those should be reserved for true difference makers, not someone who’s return is a little more than just a nice story.
Now that shock has worn off a little, more than a week after the Hawks decided not to match in what has to be the quickest and easiest decision in their franchise’s history, we can start preparing for the storm. Mind you, I was getting a parade of angry fans and hate on me in my social media for simply thinking rationally and being too negative despite only writing about the positive for quite some time on this website. The subsequent events made it all more painful, starting with the aftermath of Gordon Hayward signing with the Celtics. Boston made the wrong move in moving Avery Bradley, arguably one of their most important players, when they could’ve done Jae Crowder instead and to the Pistons of all places, for Marcus Morris of all people. Is it a stretch to say that the Knicks equivalent to that package would be Lance Thomas and/or Kyle O’Quinn? I think both make them a lot better than just one of the Morris twins. Anyway, that wasn’t just it. Up until that point, everyone was wondering if the Knicks really would take the smartest approach and wait to pounce on a bunch of cheaper days later on when no one else had money left. After all, they played the first week of free agency and market right by not making any moves for older veterans that don’t fit. But it was too good to be true and an instance of a club not able to stop itself from that urge and itch to do something. Instead of inking Milos Teodosic to be mentor to Frank Ntilikina with his affordable pact, Ron Baker was brought back not once but twice. The second time after releasing him just to pay double his salary as a type of reward. He agreed to take up all of the available MLE money, and why wouldn’t he? Baker was undrafted last June and is now getting paid as much as a top five pick from that same draft. Now that’s ridiculous. I preferred to resign Justin Holiday at a similar penny. Although considering the depth there now, he probably is the starter. Yup!
The duo of Hardaway and Baker will make a combined $80 million over the life of their contracts. Some of the players I advocated waiting for like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jonathan Simmons ended up becoming unrestricted free agents, signing bargain deals just as I thought. There were better fits than a repeat Knick that was told before signing that he had a lot of improving to do by his own brass. Straight up. This is coming off a draft that is looking quite bad right now and it’s only been a few weeks of the Dennis Smith Jr. show in Dallas. Frenchy didn’t play a summer league game to defend himself but the early returns have not been great thus far. I am on the record as saying I would rather have had DSJ’s athleticism, Malik Monk’s alpha dog mentality, Luke Kennard’s shooting (even him) AND Donovan Mitchell’s very real defensive potential ahead of Frank. Yes, I would’ve slotted all four at point guard as well because it’s the same stretch as saying Ntilikina is one right now. That’s four prospects that went after who will undoubtedly have better rookie/sophomore seasons and yet another precautionary tale of putting fit above best talent, especially when that system went out the window just days later after the firing of Phil Jackson. Front offices should know their time are not unlimited and have their goal be to have the top assortment of players for the next regime, regardless of style or coach in place even more so the way the league is going today with its fast pace and open floor, transition offenses rather than recreating European b-ball. They cannot have afforded to not get this correct.
In the interest of fairness, let me give the Knicks some credit. Just when I thought all hope was lost, they hired Sacramento’s EVP Scott Perry after it looked like the most likely conclusion to the general manager search was just an in house promotion. Actually a couple hours before, there was a report linking them to a former Clippers exec and that would’ve made for some more jokes at us. Last Sunday, former Cavs architect David Griffin pulled himself out of the running for the vacancy after he was said to have not gotten enough power for him to pull the trigger. This was yet another bad look that a championship builder like him didn’t get those assurances and brought back into question the environment surrounding Madison Square Garden. The night before, the Zen Master tweeted a picture of himself laying comfortably without worry on a resort enjoying the pay checks Jim Dolan had given him to do exactly that. Griff would’ve been the opposite of that, hard working and well liked around circles: something very important that’s very important and doesn’t get talked about enough in terms of deal making. In a relationship building business like sports, other teams have to like you to make moves with you. Jax wasn’t that person for whatever reason, jealousy or otherwise but that remained an issue. Masai Ujiri is another individual universally hailed for being easy to converse with etc, however compensation back to Toronto for his services would be a stickler had he wanted to come here with his Tim Leiweke connection.
Perry is all of these things and deserves this opportunity with Steve Mills. His moves with the Kings had everyone shocked because it was strange seeing that franchise making sound decisions like selecting De’Aaron Fox, a kid who could change to fate of a franchise just by his charisma and optimistic attitude as a floor general anyone would want to play with. Justin Jackson and Harry Giles were also great gets where they were taken and for the tenth spot, along with Frank Mason who’s possibly the best second rounder. Scott’s savy in signing mentors like Zach Randolph to teach their bigs like Skal Labisierre and Willie Cauley-Stein, as well as Vince Carter for wings like Buddy Hield were excellent and convincing George Hill to spurn other more lucrative offers to play in that backcourt. Perhaps even twelve months ago, these individuals would’ve never thought to come over to Northern California and wear purple for unstable figures like Vivek Ranadive and novice Vlade Divac which speaks to the respect and credibility Scott has amongst players across the league. In words not frequently uttered at the Mecca, Perry stated the honor and excitement he had joining in his new role. “ I will work tirelessly to develop a culture that demands results, commitment and pride from everyone that is fortunate enough to be associated.” If his past with the Pistons, Sonics and Magic serves as indication, he will begin tomorrow in his news conference by repairing the bonds in the media as he’s done so well through his accessibility. Also, it was refreshing to see Mills make quite clear that Perry will have the right to bring in an operation and department of folks he thinks can help even though he’ll be answering to him as it was previously unclear how Steve’s ascension to president would affect that. In a sport where minorities don’t get as many chances, it’s cool to see an all African American head running the New York Knicks with Mills, Perry, Clarence Gaines and Allan Houston. Here’s hoping it’s a stellar partnership for everyone!
Their first order of business will be… drum rolls please.
In the ongoing saga that doesn’t seem to end, the Knicks have pushed the breaks on a trade for at least this moment which may be a good thing. I’m not sure how feasible it is to get his list of teams he’d accept a trade to expand but I guess it won’t hurt to ask. If I’m Melo, id obviously be a little frustrated since he’s been saying to those close to him that he thinks it is a foregone conclusion he’ll be suiting up for the Rockets next year. The only other possibility is Cleveland and they don’t have anything interesting to give up other than Kevin Love, whom they won’t unless you like Cedi Osman. A deal with Houston has advantages in that their wiz Daryl Morey is pushing to get more teams involved since he can’t give up much himself. The question at a point has to be how quickly he’s getting off without sacrificing talent either in the form of first round picks or actual pieces. So I don’t particularly care for Houston’s side of the standstill. Morey is a smart man and knows Carmelo is the star that could put him over the edge against the Warriors and as he’s said, having more Olympians on a roster is a plus and not a minus. The third team that has been floated the most is the Portland Trail Blazers. To acquire Anthony, the Rockets will almost certainly have to find a taker for Ryan Anderson and his $20 million contract so the Blazers can be it if they’re intrigued with the combination of him and Nurkic out front over the course of a full campaign. He fits their team very well with his capabilities beyond the arc outside Texas where he just cannot shoot for some odd reason. Plus, Portland is capped as well and it’s not like they’d be able to acquire someone of his caliber anyway without coming in. Nonetheless, the concern they’d have is helping another Western Conference rival and not getting the best person from the proposal. I’d argue this doesn’t matter much because best of luck convincing Carmelo Anthony to play in Portland. It just won’t happen and if it does, I want Zach Collins without having to get the albatross deals of Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe.
The most recent rumor has the Knicks interested in Eric Bledsoe from the Phoenix Suns at the behest of Jeff Hornacek. Why wouldn’t he want him? It’s really unlikely though, without giving up assets. The more realistic name, at the displeasure of fans, is Brandon Knight but hear me out a little bit before you turn the other way. What if we took him and his $13 million over the next three years at a price? Of course, I wouldn’t do it for free! The kid I’d want back is actually quite the perfect Carmelo Anthony replacement and his name is TJ Warren, another NC State great. The reason it would make sense for the Suns is they drafted another small forward in Josh Jackson and he’s the future along with Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender at the four and five. Warren happens to be a restricted free agent at the end of 2017-2018 and he’ll be looking to get paid. There’s no guarantee they’d want to do that too and be the ones to hand it to him. T.J. is interesting because what he does makes no sense and that’s score with the best of them without the three while at 50% from the field, kind of like DeMar DeRozan who I think is a decent comparison for him. With Neil Olshey on the line, it’s about to get crazy. I want Maurice Harkless coming to me as well. It could be tricky to find time for both Harkless and Warren but I like the two of them together a big amount. Mo has experience off the bench with the second unit and is a lot like Courtney Lee, a reason why so many want him to play for his hometown team. They make up for each other’s weaknesses and you can go ultra small with lineups if you want as well. To facilitate the parts, I send Noah Vonleh to PHO and he’s yet another nice young player for them to add.
The Knickerbockers aid in alleviating the burden put on Portland because they’re on the border of luxury taxes by consuming Ed Davis’ expiring. It’s not out of the question that they could unload more bad contracts to Ryan McDonough if they attach something with it like Caleb Swanigan for example or future swaps. In addition, he’d get a player Phoenix has expressed interest in the past from New York in Mindaugaus Kuzminskas to make Warren more expendable. As you can see, all the financials work quite nicely considering this is a FOUR team trade and it didn’t take me that long on ESPN’s trade machine.
The next trade, we are going to bring the stakes more for Houston. As I’ve said before, it’s not a guarantee that the Trailblazers want to do with this and quite frankly, you don’t need them to. The triumvirate of NY, PHO and HOU are more than enough to complete a transaction. In such a scenario, some of the same moving parts will stay but the biggest difference is the inclusion of Tyson Chandler into these talks. The Suns have talked about moving his hefty salary so that they’re able to pave way for taking on more of it for asset collecting. By removing Brandon Knight, who I haven’t said much about other than he’d be a fine temporary starter for us and not to search him on YouTube as he’s had his share of embarrassing moments, and Chandler, they rid themselves of arguably their two worst signings.
What has to change is the Rockets and their willingness to offer Clint Capela to the Knicks. Thus far, I’ve been more than nice to them as they haven’t had to surrender their playoff keys like Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon. Phoenix is eating Ryan Anderson instead and gets back what they want in return for the act from Houston, which is in the form of first round picks in 2020 and 2022, and stash players like Isaiah Hartenstein or Zhou Qi (yay, more bigs!) To make everything work, Tarik Black goes to the Suns and we take Rocket fillers like Shawn Long and Tim Quarterman which shouldn’t be that big a problem. For us and New York, it is a TREMENDOUS win if you could walk away with Capela, Knight and Warren for Carmelo Anthony.
Capela, in particular, is hyper efficient and has added the weight needed to start at center. Willy Hernangomez shifts to his ideal role, feasting off second units like Greg Monroe while his defense improves. Tim Hardaway, TJ Warren and Kristaps Porzingis would be a truly young core that’ll only keep improving while Ntilikina develops under Brandon Knight, who’s not old himself. Whatever you get from that point on with Quarterman and Long is a bonus. I have constructed the perfect Carmelo trade. He gets to go win a chip playing with Tyson again, his buddies Chris Paul and Harden while we move on. What are your thoughts? Feel free to let us know below.