New York Knicks, The Whiteboard

The Whiteboard: Maybe Tim Hardaway Jr. isn’t overpaid after all

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s huge offer sheet seemed like a classic New York Knicks gaffe, but THJ is scoring like a $70 million player should.

When the New York Knicks signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $70 million-plus offer sheet in free agency, the Atlanta Hawks were stunned. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton reported that Atlanta expected THJ to get an offer sheet worth about $40 million. The Hawks, looking to rebuild, clearly weren’t interested in tying up big, long-term money like that.

Maybe signing Hardaway Jr. to that big of a contract is a bad move regardless of his play, considering the huge gap between the Hawks’ ballpark of contract dollar amounts and the actual deal THJ signed. Still, if the Knicks get a player scoring nearly 23 points per game on solid efficiency out of the arrangement, they’ll live.

Hardaway Jr.’s full line to this point in the season is 22.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game on 42.0 percent field goal shooting and 35.6 percent 3-point shooting. The 8.4 3s Hardaway Jr. is jacking per game is the most he’s ever shot, and it’s encouraging that his percentage is back to what it was in his last Hawks season after a down first year in New York.

There are still some kinks to work out here. Hardaway Jr. is just a 56th percentile scorer in terms of efficiency, per Cleaning the Glass (before Wednesday night’s game), among his wing player counterparts. He’s barely shooting corner 3s, the best kind of looks from deep, and hitting only 17 percent of the few shots he does get from that area. Additionally, THJ’s 50 percent conversion rate on shots at the rim puts him in the bottom 20 percent of wings.

Hardaway Jr. could definitely use a bit more efficiency in his scoring. On the other hand, his team could stand to help him out there. Aside from Enes Kanter, no other Knicks are scoring 12 or more points per game. Kanter is putting up 15.7, although half of Hardaway Jr.’s minutes come without Kanter on the floor, meaning he has Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson to distract defenses.

Players on bad teams sometimes get a side eye thrown at their stats, and there is some merit to that idea — Tim Hardaway Jr. probably wouldn’t be taking 18 shots a game if he was on the Warriors — but efficiency is tougher on bad teams.

Every defense knows THJ is the Knicks’ best offensive weapon. He deserves serious credit for continuing to pour in buckets anyway, and should look better when paired with Kristaps Porzingis and whoever New York can draw in this summer.

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