Know the Draft Pick: Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The Knicks selected the versatile guard from the University of Michigan with the 24th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. He joins an uncertain roster and will face high expectations very soon in his career. How might Tim Hardaway, Jr. answer?

After months of speculation and several minutes of me gnawing my fingernails off, David Stern stepped up to the podium and declared that the New York Knicks had drafted Tim Hardaway, Jr. with the 24th pick. The selection was met with mostly cheers, which is unusual for a Knick first rounder. A "TIMMY HARDAWAY *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap*" chant broke out from the fans in my section after the pick was announced. It was weird, man. The reactions online were more mixed and ranged from outright delight to outright derision. Hardaway never quite developed into the college star that Michigan fans were hoping to see, though he showed flashes of brilliance in several areas during his career. There are some real concerns about THJ's ability to play at a consistently high level in the NBA, but he has the ability to be a very solid 2-way player in the league.

The Rundown

D.O.B. - 03/16/92 (21 years old)

Hometown - Miami, FL

Measurements: Measurements: Height (w/o shoes) - 6'4.5"; Height (in shoes) - 6'6.25"; Weight - 199 lbs; Wingspan - 6'7"; Max Vert - 37.5; Lane Agility - 10.68

Actual Scouting Reports and Stats: Maize N Brew, DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Sports-Reference, MGoBlue

Amateur Take - Offense: Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a well-rounded weapon on offense, though unexceptional at any particular aspect. He has prototypical size and a matching skillset for the NBA 2. Much of his offensive game is based around his jumpshot. In his own words: "When I was growing up that was the only thing I did: Just shoot... I just could shoot the ball ever since I was in middle school." Though his skills have evolved since his childhood, Hardaway Jr's game is still heavily rooted in his jump shot. 38% of THJ's field goal attempts came on catch-and-shoot jumpers and he converted those opportunities at a 40% clip (5th among SGs in DraftExpress' top 100). This is a huge improvement over the 28% he converted as a sophomore, and a tool he'll need to play his role in the NBA. Hardaway shows good mechanics with his jump shot and NBA range. He gets good elevation with his shot and shows extremely reliable hands in collecting the ball before the shot. Some shooters need the ball exactly in their shooting pocket to get a good look off the catch; Hardaway can catch errant passes and move fluidly into his shot. He could stand to improve his 3PT% in the NBA, but cutting down on some of those off-the-dribble threes he took in college will help. Hardaway is very likely a better shooter than his standard box-score percentages show (THJ shot 44% on unguarded spot-ups this season per Synergy), but much of that variation is due to his shooting off the bounce.

Hardaway had the strange distinction of being a more comfortable shooter off the dribble than spotting up for his first two seasons at Michigan. He has a very smooth-looking pull-up off of one or two dribbles, and his good elevation helps him fire over defenders on the move. During his sophomore season THJ shot 44.6% off the dribble, but that number fell sharply to 31.5% this season. This situation typifies the Tim Hardaway, Jr. experience at Michigan. Some nights he looked unstoppable and could shoot it from anywhere, and others he couldn't even reliably hit open jumpers. Still, the potential is clearly there for THJ to become a serious threat with the ball in his hands. He has the uncommon ability to shoot well in spite of contests, and doesn't panic under defensive pressure. Still, an open shot is better than a contested look and he should find more of those playing in the open floor of the NBA alongside dynamic scorers like Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Unfortunately Hardaway fell in love with his jumper more often than he perhaps should have, as he shot only 48.1% from 2PT range (bottom 5 among SGs in DX's top 100). Some of this is due to iffy shot-selection, but it's more that his inability to consistently find shot attempts at the rim lowers his half-court efficiency.

Fewer than 14% of THJ's total shot attempts in the halfcourt came at the rim this past season, which is strange considering his solid athleticism. Hardaway would certainly benefit from attacking the rim more often, especially given his solid 59% finishing rate in halfcourt sets. When he does get to the basket THJ shows the ability to play above the rim and convert acrobatic layups under pressure. He isn't an extremely explosive athlete and lacks a dominant first step, but he's a solid leaper and uses his physical tools and general polish to success around the rim. Too often, however, THJ chooses to settle for either a mid-range jump shot or a floater. His efficiency would surely benefit from a better shot distribution, as he is capable of scoring at a high percentage in a variety of situations. In large part because of his tentativeness in attacking the rim, Hardaway only attempted .19 free throws per possession, ranking last among DX's top 15 SGs. He's a solid free throw shooter, but for some reason his free throw percentage has dropped every year he's played at Michigan. He'll likely shoot a better percentage than this past season's 69.5% after working with shooting coaches like Dave Hopla, but the regression is still strange.

Hardaway is an unselfish player with good basketball instincts and feel for the game. He has posted an A/TO ratio of above 1 for every year at Michigan and generally displays sound judgment with the ball in his hands. He's not an exemplary passer but he has solid vision for an off-guard and will give up the ball for a better shot. His handle is middling but he plays within himself for the most part and rarely turns the ball over because of it. There are times when THJ fails to recognize an opportunity to attack a driving lane to dish off to a waiting big, but this is something he'll likely work on in the NBA.

Amateur Take - Defense: Hardaway was a solid defender in college, but was not elite and his lack of great length adds some concerns about his ability to defend in the NBA. THJ has a great frame to guard the 2, standing 6'6" at a sturdy 199 lbs. He has a disappointing 6'7" wingspan, below-average for a 2-guard, but should be able to defend his position using his size and smarts. He will probably struggle if asked to defend the 3 in the NBA, but coach Mike Woodson seemed less than concerned about size disadvantages for most of last season. It is possible that he will be asked to defend small forwards for stretches during next season, but ultimately THJ has the body of a pure 2.

He did not make a high number of defensive plays last season, and his poor length didn't help. Ranking last among DraftExpress' top SGs with a pace-adjusted 0.8 steals per 40 minutes, Hardaway is not a player who poses much of a threat in the passing lanes. It should be noted that Hardaway posted a much more robust rate of 1.4 per 40 minutes during his freshman season, but it remains to be seen whether that's more than just a statistical anomaly. Hardaway wasn't quite as poor of a shot-blocker, but it is unlikely that he'll be a notable threat to block shots in the NBA.

The biggest concerns regarding THJ's defense in the NBA are the result of his lack of focus and effort at times in college. Without the length to easily recover and contest shots after being beaten, Hardaway will need to give maximum effort every possession to be a plus defender. THJ was screened off too easily at times and didn't always get his hand up to contest shots. He also struggled to contain opposing ball-handlers at times, which is strange considering his solid lateral quickness and basketball IQ. Obviously, this is something to look out for and will need to be addressed if Hardaway is to play productive minutes for the Knicks. For the past two seasons the Knicks have had precious few defenders with the effort and desire to battle through screens on a consistent basis; it would behoove both the Knicks and THJ if he can bring that energy and fire to the roster. He's generally regarded as a tough, competitive player so there may be some potential here for him to be a reliable defender with greater effort.

Random Red Flag: The word that best defines Hardaway's career for Michigan? Inconsistency. He became a primary option for the first dominant Michigan team in decades, but was unable to establish himself as a true college star. He was a solid spot-up shooter during his freshman year, then he was an abysmal one during his sophomore year, and then he was a good one during his junior year. He couldn't hit shots off the dribble, then he was dominant off the bounce, then he struggled again. You get the point. THJ never seemed to be able to put his well-rounded skill set together during any single year at MIchigan. The Knicks are likely intrigued by the fact that he has shown the potential to do so much well, and the hope is that he can become a more consistently complete player in orange and blue.

Knick Knacks:

- His father played in the NBA, I think.

- Grew up playing soccer, then decided on basketball in the sixth grade.

- Had a strained relationship with his father for years due to Hardaway Sr's constant criticism of Jr's play.

- Wrote "R.I.P. Z33/RS#2" on his left shoes and "R.I.P. Granny/Kay" on his right shoes during his junior year at Michigan in memory of loved ones who had passed.

- Has experience with USA Basketball: Played for the U19 team in 2011.

Let's Get Reel:


New York Knicks Pick Tim Hardaway, Jr. | NBA DRAFT 2013 | LIVE 6-27-13 (via Kingdome1979) - Here's a clip from the ESPN telecast announcing the pick. Jay Bilas had Hardaway, Jr as one of his top 5 prospects on the board, so there's that.


Tim Hardaway Jr. - 2013 NBA Draft (via Hoopsworld) - THJ mentions "sacrificing" for the good of the team here. I interpreted that he believes he is capable of more than he showed at Michigan. He also shows off his comfort level on the perimeter.


The Journey: Big Ten Basketball - Tim Hardaway, Jr (via Big Ten Network) - A little overview of Tim Jr's path from childhood to playing for U-M. Tim Sr talks a good amount about his son and their relationship.


Tim Hardaway Jr. Draft Combine Interview (via DraftExpress) - When asked about what he brings to an NBA team, THJ will usually mention being an "energy guy." Sounds cool.

Strengths:

- Size for position

- Ready to contribute immediately

- Offensive polish

- Spot-up shooting

- Athleticism

- Transition scoring (1/5 of his possessions used came in transition)

- Feel for the game

- Turnover-averse

- Low bust risk

- Intangibles; Locker room leader; Work ethic

Weaknesses:

- Length

- Inconsistency

- Shot-selection

- Ball-handling

- Defensive focus and intensity

- Forcing turnovers

- Upside

Final Thoughts: You know that friend that shows up to your potluck with a small bowl of mashed potatoes and a nice salad but forgot to bring cups? He's a great guy but darn it you texted him this morning reminding him to bring those cups. Tim Hardaway Jr was that friend throughout his college career: He brought a lot to the table, but rarely brought everything the Wolverines wanted at the same time. The Knicks have shown faith in Hardaway's talent by selecting him over other wings with more elite and consistent qualities. It is up to THJ and the New York coaching staff to harness that talent and mold him into a valuable player.

Hardaway is a solid fit for the roster. His presence provides the Knicks some insurance against the possible departure of talented guard J.R. Smith. His ability to stretch the floor and hit perimeter jumpers fits right in with the offensive philosophy of last season, as does his low turnover rate. THJ possesses all the characteristics associated with the best shooters using screens: He gets good elevation, has great hands, keeps his feet under him, and has good shooting form. While he will likely see much of his offense in pure spot-up situations, THJ gives the Knicks a player who can score off of down screens and attack the paint off of close-outs. He isn't a great ball-handler, but there is some potential for him to work in the pick-and-roll a little given his unselfish nature and feel. Should the Knicks retain Smith, they would find themselves with a somewhat crowded backcourt, but having too much talent isn't the worst problem to experience. It would be more ideal if THJ could guard both wing positions, but that seems unlikely. He does not provide any answers to NYK's current situation in the frontcourt, but he's a skilled guard who can get the ball moving in transition and hit the three.

Hardaway has the kind of personality and work ethic that coaches enjoy and fans adore. He's willing to sacrifice for his team and seems ready to accept whatever role is asked of him. He has a competitive fire that may help him overcome some of his physical limitations and bring intensity and energy to the court when needed. That said, much of what to expect on the court is unclear because of his inconsistency in college. If he can put his wide skill set together, THJ could be a dangerous weapon for the Knicks and an efficient scorer. If he can't, it's difficult to see him making a huge impact for any roster with his unremarkable play in most areas outside scoring. He should be able to play NBA minutes quickly, as he already has an NBA body and a role that translates to the next level. We'll have a better idea of what Hardaway means to the franchise after he has some time to jell with the roster. Welcome to the team, Tim.

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