Monday, August 21, 2017

Restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. signs $71 million offer sheet with Knicks

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A look at which NBA players have signed new contracts during this year’s free agency period.
USA TODAY Sports

Your move, Atlanta Hawks.

After restricted free agent guard Tim Hardaway Jr. signed a four-year, $71 million offer sheet with the New York Knicks on Thursday — a move that was confirmed by his agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, to USA TODAY Sports — the Hawks franchise that has been in rebuild mode since the start of general manager Travis Schlenk’s tenure in late May finds itself with an interesting choice ahead.

Atlanta can match by the Saturday evening deadline, and thereby take on a contract that far exceeds anything that most NBA executives anticipated for the 25-year-old who was drafted by the Knicks in 2013. Or they can let him go, with the post-Phil Jackson Knicks clearly hoping that Hardaway can take the next step and become an emerging talent who’s worthy of this kind of deal.

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Based on recent precedent, Hardaway Jr. will likely be in a Knicks jersey in no time. Since taking over the team that was fifth in the Eastern Conference last season (43-39), Schlenk has traded 31-year-old center Dwight Howard (and his contract worth a combined $47.3 million over the next two seasons) to Charlotte, while letting free agent Paul Millsap sign with Denver in free agency (three years, $90 million) without ever making him an offer.

Translation: Schlenk, who spent 12 years with the Golden State Warriors and last served as their assistant general manager, isn’t too keen on long, above-market deals at the moment as he tries to build deliberately and wisely. And while he is known to have been planning on matching any offer that came Hardaway’s way, next to no one saw this kind of deal in his future.

For the Knicks, who parted ways with Jackson on June 28 after his three seasons as president of basketball operations and are being headed by general manager Steve Mills, this move was puzzling. While Hardaway has shown some promise, averaging 14.5 points (45.5% shooting overall; 35.7% from three-point range) and 27.3 minutes per game last season as a part-time starter (30 of 79 games) in what was a career year, this would be a hefty and unexpected investment for the team that finished 31-51 last season.

ESPN and The Vertical first reported that Hardaway had signed the offer sheet with the Knicks.

Follow Sam Amick on Twitter @sam_amick.

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