The New York Knicks selected Michigan two-guard, Tim Hardaway Jr., with the 24th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, he had a stellar rookie campaign, exceeding all expectation and earning himself a place on the All-Rookie 1st team.
As is with most rookies, he had rough patches and up and down stretches, but, over the course of the Knicks poor season he was the lone bright-spot. He provided the fans with many three pointers and highlight reel dunks making him an instant fan-favourite at Madison Square Garden.
2013-14 Statistics: 10.2 points points per game, 1.5 rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game || 43% FG, 36% 3PT FG, 82% FT
Hardaway Jr. is lethal from behind the arc, he sunk 130 threes in his first season at a 36% clip. He is able to both run off of screens or sit on the perimeter and be ready to shoot. When he is chased off of the perimeter, Hardaway Jr. is very good at hitting a one dribble pull up jump shot. When shooting pull up jump shots, the twenty two-year old is more adept with a right hand dribble compared to a left hand dribble. Hardaway Jr. also displayed the ability to shoot from well beyond the arc, proving the critics wrong, whom at the beginning of the season said he did not have “NBA range”.
When Hardaway Jr. entered the NBA, scouts said he lacked athletic ability. Boy, they were wrong. The Michigan product skied high above the rim on numerous occasions. His athletic ability was best on display in fast break situations. Hardaway Jr. was terrific at running the floor and finishing alley-oops, dunks and layups. He was able to use his speed to slash to the rim and also when outrunning an opponent around screens.
Hardaway Jr.’s best scoring effort was 29 points, he reached that twice over the course of the season. He poured in 36 points at All-Star weekend whilst participating in the Rookie – Sophomore game. The 22 year olds main sources of offense were either three pointers or fast break baskets. He did show signs of being able to score off of the dribble, either pull up jump shots or taking hard to the rim. He was not afraid of the tall timber inside, he attacked the basket hard and as a young player, he was solid finishing through contact. He averaged 10.2 points per game but per 36 minutes he poured in 16.8 points.
It’s no secret, there is no nice way to put it, Hardaway Jr. is a terrible defender.
He lacked the ability to move side to side whilst shuffling his feet and he had poor defensive awareness. He was often caught ball-watching and as a result he was beaten back-door by his opponent. When defending on ball, he was poor at moving his feet and he often got beaten off of the dribble very easily. He often struggled to communicate with the Knicks’ bigs on screens and he was caught out switching a lot, he can’t be blamed for getting lost on a switch, we all know how bad Mike Woodson’s defensive schemes were.
Although he is a good scorer, Hardaway Jr., at times, showed glimpses of his inner J.R. Smith taking control. There were times when he could have made a pass to get a great shot instead of launching a contested three. Whenever he was running off of screens, he never looked to pass to the big man who was open under the rim. He seems to have a shoot-first mentality.
If you watched the Knicks during the Summer League you saw the improvements Hardaway Jr. had made, if you paid close attention it’s not as bright as it seems. His thought process went something like this; am I open? Shoot it. Am I covered? Shoot it. Is there somebody with a better shot? Shoot it. He has a guaranteed roster spot, Hardaway Jr. never really looked to get others involved, there were times when instead of working within the flow of the offense he would heave a shot at the rim, if it be a three or a contested jump shot. He often pulled up from well beyond the three point line instead of running the offense.
Hardaway Jr., if he is to take the next step, needs to improve his ball handling skills. Right now, he unable to create his own shot, he is unable to beat somebody off of the dribble. He is also very loose with the ball, Hardaway Jr. often fumbled with the ball or the defender ripped it right out of his hands.
Strengths: Shooting, athleticism, scoring
Weaknesses: Defense, shot selection, ball handling
Tim Hardaway Jr. is entering his 2nd NBA season and he will most likely be competing with J.R. Smith for the starting shooting guard position. He said it himself during Summer League that he doubts he will end up with the starting role. Hardaway Jr. could be a great option off of the pine, he along with, possibly, Amar’e Stoudemire could form a great 1-2 puch offensively from the the bench.
Projected stat line: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1.5 assists – 45% FG 38% 3PT FG 78% FT
Tim Hardaway Jr. was the steal of the 2013 draft class, he exceeded all expectations but he still has facets in need of an improvement. He will be a key part of what the Knicks are trying to accomplish not only next season, but in the long term run.