Knicks Trade Rumors: Three draft picks were needed to take Tim Hardaway Jr.

New York Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
New York Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Before the New York Knicks sent Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Dallas Mavericks, one team thought they could receive three first-round picks just to take Hardaway off their payroll.

The January Kristaps Porzingis trade not only saw the New York Knicks send their star player to the Dallas Mavericks but three others: Courtney Lee, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. This transformed New York’s payroll for the next two years and immediately opened cap space for the summer of 2019.

Hardaway’s salary was the most expensive of the bunch at over $17 million. The Knicks had just given him four years, $71 million in 2017 free agency, but injuries, inconsistent play and the allure of free agency made this money figure too much.

Just how desperate were the Knicks to move Hardaway, though? Enough to potentially revert on a preseason stance.

Per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps on Brian Windhorst’s The Hoop Collective (h/t RealGM), one team expected the Knicks to attach three first-round picks to shed this costly multi-year contract.

"“There was at least one team that thought they’d get three first round picks for him this summer to open up space for the Knicks to sign max free agents,” said Tim Bontemps on The Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective Podcast."

For up to two more years of money (Hardaway has a player option for 2021-21), that is a sky-high cost and more of the same for the Knicks, who infamously traded first-round picks in the Stephen Marbury, Eddy Curry and Andrea Bargnani transactions of the past 15 years.

As recently as the preseason, president Steve Mills said his front office would not trade first-round picks. Sending up to three of them in one deal would flip that statement upside down and cost the organization assets for a chance in free agency.

Maybe the Knicks knew — or know — something, thus their willingness to send multiple picks to clear salary. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler are all free agents this summer, and New York has approximately $70 million to spend in July. Combine those two aspects, and it’s potentially tempting enough to sacrifice draft picks for what they think is a sure thing.

Instead, the Knicks have two extra first-round picks for their troubles likely to convey in 2021 and 2023 from Dallas. Either they use those selections as roster additions or trade them for veterans. None of their first’s are also with other teams, too.

Now, Hardaway is injured and out for the rest of the season. He also had plantar fasciitis before the mid-season move.

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While a productive player, the Knicks moved away from the 27-year-old guard at a proper time for their financial sake. It sent them in a new, but unknown direction for the 2019 offseason, which has the potential to be groundbreaking.