Mar 13, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
BOSTON – When he was about 8 years old and accompanying his dad to his NBA games, Tim Hardaway Jr. used to grab a basketball and wander onto the court beyond the 3-point arc. There, he’d attempt NBA 3 after NBA 3.
It’d be years until he’d make them regularly and even longer until he could use his standard stroke rather than pushing the ball. But he kept at it.
“I’d just be hoisting those,” Hardaway said. “I wouldn’t shoot mid-range a lot, just shoot 3s, just to challenge myself.”
No wonder Hardaway is having such an easy time transitioning from the college to NBA arc, converting 37.7 of his 3-pointers.
He’s the only rookie to shoot better from beyond the arc in the NBA than he did in each of his college seasons (minimum: 30 attempts). In fact, no rookie coming straight from college has shot so well on 3-pointers on so many attempts since Stephen Curry four seasons ago.
Before Phil Jackson became James Dolan’s false idol, Hardaway was the great hope of New York fans, and it’s easy to see why they’ve swooned.
The Knicks didn’t have a first-round pick the year before selecting Hardaway No. 24 last June, and barring an unexpected trade, they won’t have one this June, either. Hardaway is the youngest player on the Knicks, the only team among the NBA’s 10 oldest (weighted by playing time) not in playoff position.
Simply, he’s the brightest hope in one of the NBA’s darkest situations.
The 21-year-old Hardaway has posted 2.2 win shares this season, a strong mark for his age but hardly elite overall. But let’s expand the parameters further – players under 28 with at least 1.5 win shares this season. Hardaway is the only qualifying Knick. Every other team besides the back-to-back defending champion Miami Heat have multiple such players.
You can certainly forgive the Heat for lacking productive young players, Mario Chalmers excepted. They’re obviously doing quite alright.
The Knicks? Not so much.
That’s why New York fans latch onto players like Hardaway, and before him, Iman Shumpert.
Like Hardaway, Shumpert was a first-round pick bookended by two years of the Knicks lacking first-round picks. Shumpert had a promising rookie year and a strong second season, but in his third year, he’s regressed as lofty expectations rose too high.
Can Hardaway better navigate the Knicks quagmire? Maybe.
It starts with his advanced 3-point shooting.
Hardaway clearly arrived at the University of Michigan with shooting skills. He says he aced Michigan coach John Beilein’s famed challenge, making 50 3-pointers in five minutes with a single ball and rebounder, on his first try.
Last season, with future first-rounder Nik Stauskas on campus, Beilein’s drill went from 50 in five to 60 in five. Again, Hardaway cruised, peaking at 68 or 69, as he left Ann Arbor after his junior year.
“I mean, I’m a shooter,” Hardaway said. “So, that’s what I do. I shoot the ball.”
And for right now, that’s about it.
Hardaway, averaging 10.0 points per game, has been extremely one-dimensional in New York.
Of the 46 shooting guards who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes this season, Hardaway has the lowest offensive-rebounding percentage, second-lowest defensive-rebounding percentage, lowest total rebounding percentage, third-lowest assist percentage, eighth-lowest steal percentage and eighth-lowest block percentage.
He’s finished just 43 pick-and-rolls as the ball-handler with a shot, turnover or trip to the free-throw line all season, according to MySynergySports.
Defensively, he stays on the balls of his feet well, but he’s not always moving somewhere helpful. The Knicks allow 110.3 points per 100 possessions with Hardaway on the court, up from 103.4 when he sits.
Hardaway’s value lies almost completely as a spot-up shooter.
But Hardaway isn’t necessarily destined to fill only such a limited role.
He’s 6-foot-6 and athletic, a combination that considerably boosts his upside.
“I want him to be a complete player,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “So, I want him to get better defensively, and I think he will as the years come and go. He’s just got to pick up a little of weight, get a little bit stronger. But I like everything about Tim.”
If you look closely, signs are already emerging he’ll realize his greater potential.
Hardaway finishes well at the rim when he gets there. Though he ranks just 59th league-wide in fastbreak points per game, he leads the slow-paced Knicks. In his last two games, he’s scored 22 points on 11 shots and 28 points on 13 shots.
As long as everyone keeps reasonable expectations for him, Hardaway should play prominently in the Knicks’ future.
The bulk of Hardaway’s value stems from how firmly he’s entrenched himself as a solid role player who could develop into a great role player. Whether or not they re-sign Carmelo Anthony this summer, the Knicks aren’t going to stop chasing stars, and stars can always use shooters like Hardaway to pace the floor. Hardaway’s defense still prevents him from being a true 3-and-D player, but that’s hardly uncommon for a rookie. Hardaway can, and likely, will get there.
But the chance he reaches a much higher ceiling, even if it’s a longshot, increases his value. Not all role players possess this type of upside.
After years of devoting extreme attention to what his become his signature skill, 3-point shooting, Hardaway has begun to develop his all-around repertoire.
“You’ve got to,” Hardaway said. “You’ve got to expand your game each and every day, and it doesn’t stop.”
Oct 22, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
No charges have been filed.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
J Crossover up close and personal.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
Rockets downgraded Parsons, but he’ll have a chance to reach new heights with Mavericks
Oct 22, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT
Lakers forward also says he’s quit drinking alcohol
Oct 22, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
Stephen Curry takes advantage
Oct 22, 2014, 6:21 PM EDT
Phil Jackson has spoken to the media more than the previous three GMs ever did, I think.
Oct 22, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
“ We still have roughly a third of our teams that are not profitable under the current system, despite revenue sharing.” —Adam Silver
Oct 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Oddest vote of the survey — 10.7 percent of GMs thought Chicago had a better offseason than Cleveland.
Jeff Van Gundy: Confusing a system (like the Triangle Offense) with reason for success is ‘a huge mistake’
Oct 22, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT
Van Gundy says players are responsible for wins and losses, not systems — like the one Phil Jackson is bringing to the Knicks this season.
Oct 22, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT
This could be the year a big man breaks the string of guards winning the award.
Oct 22, 2014, 2:13 PM EDT
Pierce played 15 years for the Celtics, but is now with his second new team in as many seasons with the Wizards.
Oct 22, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT
Boston is hoping to get an asset in return for Bynum instead of simply waiving him.
Oct 22, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT
Oct 22, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT
There are plenty more interesting tidbits in the league’s annual survey.
Oct 22, 2014, 11:23 AM EDT
It may come up again, but for one more season at least Philadelphia’s uber-tanking system will pay dividends.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT
In addition to losing its two best playmakers in the offseason. Indiana has struggled with injuries.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
This is a team where winning 50 games and exiting in the first round would feel like a big disappointment.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Inadvertent collision resulted in Kaman needing stitches in the back of his head.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Raptors point guards clicked when playing together
Oct 22, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Mayweather thought it was funny.
- Five top candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year 17
- NBA GMs surveyed predict LeBron will win MVP, Spurs will repeat as champions 27
- Owners vote down NBA Draft lottery reform, system to stay same for this season 41
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Houston Rockets 22
- Kobe Bryant responds to ESPN article with basically a shrug (VIDEO) 19
- Paul George refutes report he didn’t want to play with Kobe Bryant: ‘Media reaching again’ 22
- PBT Extra preview: Lakers, Celtics big name teams headed to lottery 12
- Could lottery reform be bad for small market teams? Sam Presti argues yes. 23