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NBA Sunday: For Knicks, Hardaway Jr. Deal Is A Major Risk

While Tim Hardaway Jr. may prove worth a $71 million investment, signing him was a major risk.

Moke Hamilton



Tim Hardaway Jr. is a fine basketball player. Since being drafted by the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft, his star has risen fairly consistently.

He is a young professional who has clearly shown signs of progression over the course of his four-year career and, if he maximizes his potential, can be a great scorer at the NBA level.

Hardaway, however, simply isn’t worth a $71 million investment, and he absolutely isn’t worth the risk for the Knicks. You don’t need Amar’e Stoudemire’s goggles to see that.

As expected, the signing of Hardaway was met with mixed reaction from Knicks fans, while most of the NBA media and personnel who have spoken on the matter agreed that the contract tendered to Hardaway would qualify as overspending.

In the interest of being impartial, it’s fair to point out that at 25 years old, Hardaway still has room to grow. His ceiling is still unknown and better days may very well lie ahead. After all, recall the NBA’s collective response to the five-year, $55 million contract that the Boston Celtics signed Rajon Rondo to in 2009. People felt the same way about the four-year, $44 million deal that the Golden State Warriors inked Stephen Curry to in 2013.

For the most part, in the NBA, young players are paid on promise; you simply have to take risks if you want to win big. Daryl Morey took, for example, a monumental risk on James Harden when he acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2012. Morey was willing to roll the dice, and it’s safe to say that turned out well.

So, in all fairness, Hardaway could potentially be the next Harden. As the NBA’s salary cap continues to rise over the coming years, the nearly $18 million Hardaway will average could be considered a bargain.

The major issue with the Hardaway signing, however, is the simple absurdity behind the fact that merely days after announcing the ouster of Phil Jackson, the Knicks re-signed a player that the franchise traded away. It looked especially foolish to consider that Hardaway was indirectly traded for Derrick Rose, whom the Knicks had to renounce in order to sign him. It cost them Robin Lopez in the process, and indirectly resulted in the team signing Joakim Noah to what most people would consider to be one of the worst contracts in the league today.

An intelligent front office would have never found themselves in that type of situation. Considering the fact that it’s the Knicks, the attention paid to the signing, of course, would get amplified attention.

The Hardaway signing also appears somewhat foolish for the Knicks simply because, at least to this point, Hardaway has not proven himself to be a difference-maker on both ends of the basketball court. He has made significant strides on the defensive end, but to frame his signing as anything more than a monumental risk would be biased. The simple truth is that Knicks fans, being dedicated as they are, often find themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to convince themselves that the front office is making wise decisions, or decisions that are indicative of foresight and of seeing the entire forest, rather than one or two trees.

For example, when the Knicks decided to amnesty Chauncey Billups back in 2011, the educated NBA observer knew that the decision was asinine. The Knicks simultaneously lit the get out of jail free card they had for Stoudemire and his problematic knees while also removing themselves from consideration for Chris Paul. Had the Knicks played that situation differently, Paul could have forced his way to the Knicks in the same exact manner he forced his way to the Rockets. This was a scenario that Paul and Anthony had spoken of, and it’s no coincidence that the two are nearing the formation of their long overdue partnership in Houston.

Without question, the front office in New York absolutely lacked the foresight required to realize that while paying Carmelo Anthony a maximum-salaried contract wasn’t the best of ideas, giving him a 15 percent trade kicker and a no-trade clause was moronic. Years later, the Knicks have discussed the possibility of buying Anthony out simply because he has the power to veto any trade brought to him. Had Anthony not had a no-trade clause, Phil Jackson would have long traded him to a small market team that knows that it would never have the opportunity to sign a player with the box office appeal of Anthony. He would have long ago been traded to Sacramento, Orlando or Charlotte, for example, if not for the no-trade clause.

Noah’s contract has already been discussed, ad nauseam. Still, his signing of a four-year contract further illustrates the central point; the Knicks don’t think ahead.

So, as it relates to Hardaway, reports out of Atlanta suggest that the franchise—while valuing him quite highly—drew a line in the sand of $50 million for re-signing the guard. That the Knicks offered Hardaway almost 50 percent more and included a 15 percent trade kicker certainly qualifies as overpaying.

While other fans will point to contracts offered to the likes of Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk as evidence of Hardaway’s contract being within the realm of reasonability, there are a number of differences between every other NBA team in the league and the Knicks. The first, and most important, is that the Knicks do not know who will be running their front office next month, much less next year. The team doesn’t have an identity, so signing a fairly one-dimensional player to such a rich four-year deal doesn’t make sense without having leadership in place.

Secondly, as the NBA world sat back and saw the Boston Celtics sweat and eventually sell Avery Bradley for cents on the dollar, we realize that the reason they did so was because of the lack of flexibility that their payroll situation afforded. The Celtics literally scrambled because their miscalculations left them just short of $1 million short of what they needed to offer Gordon Hayward a full maximum contract. This serves as dispositive evidence that in the NBA, when it comes to managing the salary cap, every single dollar counts. That’s why Hardaway on an $11.5 million contract would have looked much, much better than Hardaway on a $17.5 million contract.

Finally, it would be wise to point out a simple truth as it relates to building a winning franchise in the NBA: it’s not wise to clog your cap situation until you know who your primary building blocks are, and the key to winning in the entire ordeal is drafting building blocks and signing pieces around them while they still qualify as cheap labor on rookie contracts. Stephen Curry’s contract, though not a rookie deal, exemplifies the point; had the Warriors not had him signed to a $12 million salary, they would not have had the cap space available to sign Kevin Durant. Had the San Antonio Spurs not had their core players signed to relatively cheap deals, they would not have been able to sign LaMarcus Aldridge as a free agent. Had the Celtics not wisely managed their payroll, they would not have been able to sign Al Horford. For the Knicks, the wisest thing to do would have been to sign lesser-known players with potential to low-risk, short-term contracts, build slowly around Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina and take inexpensive rolls of the dice and hope to find players who could become difference-makers. A player like Justin Holiday, for example, would have been ideal.

Point blank, in the NBA, it’s wise to use your salary cap space to sign auxiliary pieces to a core of three or four young players, and until that core is on the roster on inexpensive contracts, refrain from signing players to big-money deals, because those are the deals that look asinine two or three years down the line. That is, of course, you are signing a certified winner, which Hardaway is not.

As the Knicks brief flirtation with David Griffin ended, we would point to the recently deposed Sam Hinkie for his brilliance in one regard—Hinkie made a habit of using his salary cap space as a dumping ground for bad contracts from other teams. In return, he would demand a draft pick or two. Part of the reason why Hinkie left the cupboard stocked in Philadelphia was because he long ago understood that salary cap space in the NBA could be used as currency.

That was never more aggressively than it was with Hinkie, and now, in Brooklyn, Sean Marks managed to absorb the contract of DeMarre Carroll—one that the Toronto Raptors were eager to rid themselves of—and net two future draft picks in the process.

That, for purposes of team-building, was brilliant. Unfortunately, it’s been far too long since we have been able to describe a move made by the New York Knicks as such.

So, as the Knicks move forward with Hardaway Jr. and Porzingis as their core, it is entirely possible that the two could emerge as a dynamic duo that leads the Knicks back to prominence.

Here and now, however, the Hardaway Jr. signing, for the Knicks, simply appears to be a foolish roll of the dice that isn’t likely to make a substantial difference for the franchise.

In the NBA, salary cap space is an asset that can be wisely used for a number of purposes. For a time, it appeared that the Knicks realized this. Then, with the stroke of the pen and the signing of a $71 million offer sheet, it all came crashing down.

Indeed, history often does repeat itself. For the Knicks, it just always happens to be the wrong type.


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NBA Daily: Potential Free Agent Bargains

With the NBA’s free agency right around the corner, David Yapkowitz identifies some valuable players that could be had for a nice price.

David Yapkowitz



The NBA Draft is in the rearview now which means free agency is right around the corner—this coming weekend, to be exact.

With seemingly few teams having money to spend, it might not shape up to be as crazy a free agency period as some believe.

Already, several players such as the Los Angeles Clippers’ Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic, the Denver Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler and the Atlanta Hawks’ Mike Muscala have chosen to exercise their player options rather than test the open market. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Carmelo Anthony will do the same.

With little money to go around, some free agents are going to have to settle for whatever is left. There might be a few guys who end up signing bargain contracts, and here’s a look at some players who could end up on that list.

Mike Scott – Atlanta Hawks – $1,471,382

One year ago, Mike Scott was recovering from multiple injuries and was seemingly on the borderline between being in and out of the NBA. He signed a one-year contract with the Washington Wizards last offseason and ended up having a resurgent year. He emerged as a key contributor for a Wizards bench that has been one of their weaknesses for some time.

He’s a stretch-four, a perfect fit for today’s NBA game. He put up career-high shooting numbers with 52.7 percent shooting from the field and 40.5 percent from the three-point line. He played well against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. He’ll fetch more than the minimum contract he signed last summer, but again, it’s a question about how much. Plenty of teams could use a versatile shooting big man with solid defense.

Kevon Looney – Golden State Warriors – $1,471,382

Seemingly buried on the Golden State Warriors bench his first two years in the league, Kevon Looney broke out this season and proved he could be a valuable option in the rotation. To begin this season, he was even behind rookie Jordan Bell in the lineup. It wasn’t until Bell went down with a brief injury that Looney got his chance.

With today’s game increasingly moving away from positions and big men needed more of an all-around skill set to thrive, Looney is perfect. He’s shown an ability to guard multiple positions. He can finish well around the rim and he’s active on the glass. One area he could improve on is developing a consistent jump shot, but that’s something that can come with time. Depending on what the Warriors decide to do with JaVale McGee and David West, Looney might be squeezed out from the team. He’s sure to attract interest though around the league.

Jerami Grant – Oklahoma City Thunder – $1,524,305

When he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers four years ago, Jerami Grant immediately became a solid rotation player. He continued his strong play after coming over to the Thunder in a trade about two years ago. His numbers may not jump off the stat sheet (8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds), but he does a lot of little things that bring value to a team.

In today’s NBA, he’s able to play multiple positions both offensively and defensively. He didn’t shoot so well from beyond the arc this season (29.1 percent), but the year before he connected on 37.1 percent of this three-point attempts. He has that ability to spread the floor. He made $1,524,305 this past season and he most definitely is in line for a bigger payday. How much bigger though is the question. His versatility would be a boost to any team.

Will Barton – Denver Nuggets – $3,533,333

Heading into free agency, Will Barton had the best season of his career. He put up 15.6 points per game on 45.2 percent shooting from the field, 37 percent from the three-point line and 4.1 assists, all career-highs. He was a contender for the Sixth Man of the Year award but he also proved that he could start as well. Known for being a scorer most of his career, he really developed into more of a playmaker this season.

Barton would be an asset to any team looking to add some wing firepower and playmaking to their rotation. Close to the end of the season with the Nuggets making a playoff push, Barton was thrust into the starting lineup for the final 13 games. During that stretch, he put up 19.2 points while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. He’s proved himself worthy of getting paid, it just remains to be seen what those offers might look like.

Isaiah Thomas – Los Angeles Lakers – $6,261,395

A little over a year ago, Isaiah Thomas was the face of the Boston Celtics and a legit MVP candidate. The Celtics were then swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it was revealed that Thomas had an injury that required surgery. After being dealt to the Cavaliers last offseason, he never really was able to fit in with the team and they jettisoned him off to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline.

He looked a bit more comfortable with the Lakers but ended up having to shut it down in late March due to lingering injury issues. He once was on the threshold of receiving a max contract, but that doesn’t appear to be so anymore. There’s no question about his value to a team if healthy. He did average 15.6 points and 5.0 assists in 17 games with the Lakers. It’s possible he opts for a one year deal to prove he’s healthy and then test free agency again next summer. In any case, provided his injuries are behind him, he could be a free agent steal.

It will be interesting to see how the free agent landscape unfolds money wise. The players on the list can all be capable contributors to a playoff contender. It just seems like most of the teams with cap room this summer are teams in the midst of rebuilding. These guys could wind up being contract bargains for a contender off the bench.

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NBA Daily: Kevin Knox and Kristaps Porzingis Already Have One Thing In Common

Kevin Knox’s experience on draft night was eerily similar to that of Kristaps Porzingis.

Moke Hamilton



Michael Porter, Jr. might be the next Kevin Durant, but he could just as easily be the next Greg Oden.

And if you’re searching for comfort in the wake of the decision of the Knicks to pass on the opportunity to draft the young man who was widely regarded as being the top prospect in the class of 2018, it is pretty easy to find in the fact that of all people, Jerry West decided that Porter wasn’t worth the risk, either.

While Porter might end up being a Hall of Famer, when it comes to drafting prospects, we might as well be shooting in the dark. We all knew that Markelle Fultz was the best option for the Sixers in last year’s draft, and 12 other teams clearly had no idea what Donovan Mitchell had in store for the league.

Heck, two years ago, as I was recently reminded by someone on Twitter, I predicted that the Knicks would select Emmanuel Mudiay with their fourth pick. Instead, they walked away with Kristaps Porzingis.

If I were the man making the call back then, with the information I had, I certainly would have drafted Mudiay. And you know what? That decision probably would have gotten me fired, and rightfully so.

The true moral of the story is that we simply can’t see into the future and all the analytics in the world won’t able to measure things like guts and heart. So as the Knicks pin their hopes on Kevin Knox, it truly will be interesting to see how the career arcs of he and Porter compare.

As for why we would single out the Knicks and make the franchise’s decision to draft Knox over him a personal one, quite a few people in the know relayed the same information on the Knicks and Porter going back to their date at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May—they loved each other.

Thereafter, there were reports that the Knicks were looking to move up in the draft, and Porter was on their minds. On Thursday night in Barclays Center, with the Knicks on the clock, their fans in attendance cheered for Porter, as they were hopeful that he would be selected to be the franchise’s next stud.

They were disappointed, and now, they’ll hope that Scott Perry’s decision to go with Knox ends up being the right one. It might be, just like Porzingis was the right pick over Mudiay, and it might not be, just like selecting Frank Ntilikina over Mitchell wasn’t.

Like it or not, though, the two young men will forever be linked, both in my mind and in the minds of plenty of other Knicks fans.

“That’s just motivation,” Knox said of the Knicks fans in attendance chanting Porter’s name.

“A lot of people want him to get to the Knicks, but I mean, it’s all good with me. I’m ready to get to work. I’m ready to get to work and ready to prove people in Summer League and prove people in the NBA.”

Knox’s experience on draft night was remarkably similar to that of Porzingis, and now, if you even so much as suggest trading the Latvian unicorn for a player such as Kyrie Irving, Knicks fans just might call for your head.

It’s strange how quickly things can change for you in New York City. At the end of the day, it comes down to working hard and earning the adoration of the faithful in Gotham City. Porzingis succeeded there, and there’s every reason to believe that Knox will, as well.

“They booed Porzingis (on draft night) and look where he is now,” the rookie remarked.

“They can chant Michael Porter all they want, but they got Kevin Knox, and I’m willing to work and I’m willing to get better.”

When asked, Knox would tell you that he and Jayson Tatum happen to have something in common. According to him, neither of the two really got an opportunity to show what they could do at the collegiate level.

With more opportunities and more repetitions, the sky truly is the limit for the 18-year-old.

“I think I can pretty much play all around the floor,” Knox said.

“I can handle the ball, pick-and-roll situations, make plays, make passes. I can stretch the floor, shoot the ball, get rebounds, push it coast to coast. So I think that versatility in the league is something that a lot of teams really need, and I think that’s something I can bring to the Knicks right now.”

Privately, to members of the Knicks organization, Knox has spoken highly of the spotlight that he’s bound to face in New York and believes that playing at Kentucky helped to prepare him for the type of demanding environment that he’ll be introduced to once the season gets underway in New York. And even without a bad back, the crushing expectations and heavy burden could cause a weaker minded player to crumble.

A FaceTime call with Porzingis on draft night went a long way toward giving the rookie the confidence that he’ll need to thrive in New York.

That the franchise’s pride and joy immediately reached out to his new running mate to congratulate him, welcome him to the team and give him some insight is a good sign. At the very least, it shows that Porzingis takes his responsibility as being the team’s lead man seriously.

At most, it could signal K.P.’s being pleased with the selection.

We’re about to embark upon the story of Kevin Knox. We’ve only seen the preamble.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you certainly can’t know how the final chapter will end based on what you’ve read in the first chapter. So no, the Knicks fans that wanted Michael Porter on their squad didn’t get their wish, but in the long run, they may end up being better for it.

Just like Kristaps Porzingis, Knox wasn’t received warmly by Knicks fans on draft night.

Hopefully, for the rookie, it’s not the last thing he and the beloved Porzingis will have in common.

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NBA Daily: Lessons From The 2018 NBA Draft

After a wild 2018 NBA Draft, here are four lessons and storylines worth watching over the next few years.

Ben Nadeau



Now that the dust has settled on an unpredictable NBA Draft — what exactly have we learned? In amongst the unrelenting rumors, refused workouts and surprise reaches, there are a few key takeaways from Brooklyn. Of course, some of these are one-off instances, but others are definitely part of modern-day draft patterns. While draft night may sometimes seem like complete chaos or chance, each scenario on this rundown has been boiling over for weeks. Between passing on a talented prospect to letting an injured one slide, here are four important lessons from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Luka Dončić… Not The No. 1?

For months and months, it appeared as if Luka Dončić was poised to become the No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Even today, it’s hard to believe that somebody with Dončić’s age and resume wasn’t the top selection. In 2017-18 alone, the Slovenian took home EuroLeague MVP and Finals MVP plus ACB MVP, with championships in both leagues to boot — but here we are. Dončić averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over just 25 minutes per game, quickly transforming into the most well-rounded overseas prospect of all-time. But as impressive as Dončić was throughout the spring, the potential ceilings of both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III eventually won out.

At 7-foot-1, Ayton’s 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game were undeniably worthy of a top selection too, pairing well alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson for the foreseeable future. While the jury is still out on Bagley III — his defense needs some major fine-tuning — he won’t take key touches away from De’Aaron Fox either. More or less, nobody wants to be the organization to miss on such a franchise-altering pick. The Suns, Kings and even the Hawks may eventually regret passing on Dončić, but when general managers’ entire careers can depend on making the right choice at the right time, it’s not difficult to understand why the top of the draft unfolded as it did.

Playing Hard To Get Doesn’t Always Work Out…

As draft boards began to take shape, there was one particularly interesting situation sitting at No. 4 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr., solidly leading the second tier of prospects, was looking like a lock at the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick — but with one major caveat: Jackson Jr. reportedly didn’t work out or give his medical information to the franchise. After he was drafted, Jackson Jr. called those rumors “a tad out of context” — but, obviously, those are some massive red flags. Either way, Memphis went with their gut and selected the talented forward anyway.

But beyond all that, Memphis absolutely made the right move by sticking to their guns. Putting a modern three-point shooting, defensive-minded athlete next to Marc Gasol should prove to be an absolute nightmare for years to come. Naturally, Jackson Jr. will get plenty of easy looks from the stellar Mike Conley Jr. too — so if the draftee was once apprehensive, surely that will pass soon. Still, it reflects on a larger NBA pattern, wherein which prospective athletes sensibly look to mold their own path out of college. With players trying to control their draft narratives more than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some franchises will take their target first and then figure out the rest.

We may never know Jackson Jr.’s full thought process behind not working out for the Grizzlies, but there’s a great chance that the former Spartan was made for Memphis’ tough brand of basketball — and we should all be glad we’ll get to see it.

…But Injuries Will Lead To A Slide

Michael Porter Jr. — what a year for him, huh?

After missing out on much of his only collegiate season due to back surgery, Porter Jr. promised that he was feeling better than ever. But over the last month, scouts and front offices were treated to canceled workouts and hazy uncertainty. And, at the end of the day, it probably scared a handful of franchises away from the talented scorer. Just this week, the Kings heavily considered Porter Jr. at No. 2 overall — but even with that sudden unlikelihood passing by, few thought he’d drop out of the top ten altogether. Outside of the guaranteed money that Porter Jr. will miss out on, redshirting his rookie year may also be on the table as well.

The inherent upside with Porter Jr. is obvious, but — similarly to the Dončić issue — it’s tough to ask franchise officials to stake their livelihood on the prospect’s health. If Porter Jr.’s lingering issues stay with him and he never reaches his mountain of potential, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The 19-year-old would fall all the way down to No. 14, where the Denver Nuggets gladly scooped him up. During the combine in May, Porter Jr. called himself the best player in the draft — but it’s now up to him to prove them all wrong.

The Mysterious Men Nearly Miss Out

Let’s rewind to early April. Villanova had been just crowned NCAA champions for the second time in three years, the NBA playoffs were soundly on the horizon and mock drafts had begun to consistently pour out. Early on, there were two athletic big men that looked like shoo-ins as first-rounders: Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. Despite their undercooked skill-sets, both players pulled out of the combine and then waited for the hype to build — except, well, it didn’t. Williams, who was typically projected in the early teens, slipped out of the lottery entirely, only to be rescued by the Boston Celtics at No. 27. Williams is a booming, powerful prospect, but he could’ve really benefited from competing against the other top prospects in May.

Although he’s now landed in an ideal situation with Brad Stevens, Al Horford and a process-driven Celtics squad, Williams likely cost himself a whole load of money over the last 30-plus days as well.

In Robinson’s case, many believed his floor was the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 — rumors swirling that the 7-foot-1 center even received a promise from the illustrious franchise. Instead, Robinson dropped to the New York Knicks at No. 36 overall. Robinson had originally committed to Western Kentucky in July of 2017 before dropping out to prepare for the draft. After skipping the combine last month, Robinson indeed exhibited the potential to be both a steady shot-blocker and three-point maker during his individual evaluations. But with little to go off of but high school highlight reels and small session workout tapes, he understandably fell.

Sometimes the hype is impossible to ignore, but not participating in the combine and staying as mysterious as possible hurt these ultra-talented prospects.

While the 2018 NBA Draft wasn’t quite the trade-heavy, drama-laden extravaganza much of the world expected, there are plenty of narratives to reflect upon. At the end of the day, the ink is barely dry on this year’s festivities and it’ll be some time before there’s any indication of these successes or failures. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every draft, workout or injury process and these are four conversations worth considering as the NBA quickly rolls into the summer league season.

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