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Three weeks ago, the New York Knicks parted ways with team president Phil Jackson. The Knicks hired Jackson in March of 2014 and the New York faithful had hope that he would finally lead the team back to respectability.
Like so many other signings over the past 17 years for New York, the hope Jackson provided proved to be little more than fool’s gold.
We don’t need to go into too much detail about the many mistakes Jackson made as an executive. (You can read Yusuf Nakhooda’s in-depth analysis here: https://www.the3pointconversion.com/phil-jacksons-tenure-new-york-horrific/)
Knicks fans greeted Jackson’s firing with the same optimism for the future that they had when he was hired three years ago. It only took the Knicks three weeks to prove that their failings are systemic; a far larger issue than any one individual.
Last summer, Jackson signed Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract. Noah was a terrific two-way center in his prime but every indication last summer was that his prime was firmly in the rear view mirror.
Noah only managed to play in 46 games last season and was below his career averages in almost every statistical category. Most concerning was his free-throw percentage dropping to 43% from a career average of 69%.
Many statistics drop as a player ages but free throw percentage shouldn’t be one of them. It was an abysmal performance from a player that was accounting for $17 million against the Knicks’ salary cap. With Jackson gone, fans hoped things would start to improve.
Last week, the Knicks offered Tim Hardaway Jr. a four-year, $71 million contact and that hope immediately dissipated. Financially, the deal is eerily similar to Noah’s. The only difference is that Hardaway Jr. is only 24 years old and is still improving.
That being said, the contract the Knicks just gave him is horrendous. Hardaway Jr. still has potential to become a better player.
He averaged six points, two rebounds and an assist for the Atlanta Hawks two years ago. This past season his totals jumped to 14.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.
That is a significant leap and one task he is very unlikely to duplicate. If Hardaway Jr. never improves on his averages from last year, and gives the Knicks comparable production for the next four years, he would be a solid player. And vastly overpaid.
Last year, J.J. Redick averaged 15 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists for the Los Angeles Clippers. They paid him just north of $7 million for his services. Jae Crowder averaged 13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists for the Boston Celtics last season which only cost Boston a hair over $6 million.
Both Redick and Crowder shot better from 3-point range than Hardaway Jr. and are more consistent defenders. They are just two examples of many players around the NBA who can give the Knicks the production they can expect to get from Hardaway Jr. The difference is they provided those contributions at less than half the price.
Hardaway Jr. is not a bad player. He’s solid, he’s improving and he will make the Knicks better next season. He’s set to earn around $17 million or more next year.
Although he will make the Knicks better, it is highly unlikely he will improve them enough to be worth that much money. He is just the latest in a long Knicks history of overpaying aging players or betting too much on the potential of young players.
This is an error the Knicks continue to make and Hardaway Jr.’s contract is going to haunt the team in the next few years. Phil Jackson may be gone but make no mistake, it’s still business as usual in New York.