On July 7th, the Knicks and Tim Hardaway Jr. agreed to a 4y/71m offer sheet that left the Hawks a simple decision: to let him walk. From day one, GM Travis Schlenk has preached two things, which are obtaining assets and detering from bad long-term deals. By letting Tim Hardaway Jr. walk, Schlenk is staying true to his word and to the direction of this franchise.
The Direction of the Hawks
The Hawks are rebuilding. After trading away Dwight Howard and letting THJ and Paul Millsap walk, the Hawks have established themselves as one of the worst teams in basketball. But, that is not a bad thing. The Hawks had appeared in 10 straight playoff appearences and only found themselves in one Eastern Conference Finals.
Tanking isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Hawks, as if the Hawks want to be elite and relevant again, they need to rebuild, just like any elite team in the NBA had to be great. Next year’s draft class has a lot of promising talent, and a poor season could give the Hawks a shot at Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri commit), which would give the Hawks a star and a future. Keeping Tim Hardaway Jr. would give them a few extra wins, but not get them to the playoffs, which essentially puts them in no man’s land.
Maintaining Cap Flexibility
It’s important that the Hawks mantain cap flexiblity now. These days, teams sign players to awful contracts, and a team that has cap space is very valuable, as they are able to take on contracts for picks. The Hawks did it with Jamal Crawford: They are paying his remaining money, but they were able to get a first round pick and Diamond Stone to do so. Brooklyn has also done it, as they took Demarre Carroll off of the Raptors and also got a first round pick too.
With so many teams being in the luxury tax, it’s important that the Hawks are in a position to take on bad deals for picks. As mentioned earlier, GM Travis Schlenk lives for acquiring assets. That’s reason maintaining cap space while rebuilding is important. Re-signing Hardaway Jr. would leave the Hawks with 125 million dollars owed to Kent Bazemore and Tim Hardaway Jr.: Who play the same position.
Is THJ Worth His Deal?
There will always be a debate on whether Hardaway Jr. is worth his deal. Hardaway Jr. has the potential to drop 20 points a night, but is a limited defender and could see his numbers fall off outside of the Hawks system. Historically, Hawks players have dropped off after leaving the Hawks in the Budenholzer Era. Al Horford is the most recent example.
(2015-16 w/ ATL) 15.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 50.5% FGP, and 82 games played
(2016-17 w/ BOS) 14 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 47 FGP, and 68 games played
But, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter whether THJ is worth his deal or not for the Hawks. Direction is so key, and the lack of direction last season/offseason screwed the Hawks over. The Hawks are moving in a different direction, and they don’t need his contract getting in the way of their plan. The Hawks are rebuilding, and letting THJ walk keeps the Hawks moving in the same direction.