I think I can speak for all of Knicks Nation when I say that the name Tim Hardaway makes me cringe. I didn’t like the swagger and fisticuffs. I didn’t like his uncanniness in the clutch. I didn’t like anything even close to pertaining to Pat the Rat and the Miami Heat then, and I certainly didn’t like seeing Hardaway’s mug donning the University of Michigan beanie all March long now. Still, all the disdain in the world shouldn’t turn New York Knicks fans off from the possibility of taking Tim Hardaway Jr. come draft night.
Hardaway Jr. has been turning heads since the NBA Draft Combine a few weeks ago. With his stock on the rise, it’s possible he won’t be on the board when the Knicks select at 24. If he is, the Knicks should no doubt have Hardaway Jr. on their radar.
At 6-6, Hardaway Jr. has ideal size for excelling on both ends of the floor at the next level, but his offense is miles ahead of his defense. He can beat you in a multitude of ways, but most impressive is his ability to take care of the ball. Not only is Hardaway Jr. an efficient shooter, knocking down 37% of his treys last year, but he’s also a capable distributor, finishing with a positive assist/turnover ratio in each of his three seasons at Michigan. With the loss of Jason Kidd and the threat of injury always looming over a Pablo Prigioni who might have one foot out the door already, it’s important for the Knicks to find someone who can keep the offense flowing, even if it means doing away with the two point guard set that brought so much success last season. Hardaway Jr. would be the perfect guy to step in to that role. Even without the ball in his hands, he has the size to be an efficient slasher, even if it isn’t his strength.
Defensively, Hardaway Jr. needs a little work, but a 6-7 wingspan could help him get there. He has the quickness and foot work to be able to keep his man in front of him, but like most draft prospects, he’s going to need to add a little weight. Inconsistency plagued him as a defender at Michigan, so it’s going to be up to the coaching staff to stay on top of him mentally.
Hardaway Jr.’s game should translate well to the NBA, but that doesn’t make J.R. Smith expendable just yet. Even at his full potential Hardaway Jr. may never have the scoring prowess of the Sixth Man of the Year and you’d hate to put that much pressure on a rookie drafted towards the end of the first round. Still, he should eventually develop in to an efficient shooting guard. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to have a Hardaway on our side this time?