The Hawks’ X Factor: THJ

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s three pointer in his first Hawks start

Looking to add another scoring option at the guard position preparing for the departure of DeMarre Carroll, the Atlanta Hawks traded their first round pick to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr. in in exchange for the draft rights to Jerian Grant. After a rough start to the season, he’s made significant progress in Coach Bud’s system and could possibly be the Hawks “X-Factor” to once again make a deep run into the Playoffs. Tim Hardaway, the fourth year 6’6 shooting guard from the University of Michigan, is starting to become a vital player in Atlanta’s second unit.

Ryan Kelly’s dunk against the Knicks. Hardaway Jr struggled on defense in 2014-15
After the initial trade, many criticized the Hawks of taking a risk for trading for Hardaway Jr. due to his inconsistencies on defense. In his final season in New York, Hardaway Jr. allowed his opponents to shoot 48% percent from the field and 40.5% percent from behind the arc. However, as we’ve seen during his tenure in Atlanta if there’s a specific player that Coach Bud adores, along with the staff, the Hawks are one of the best in the league to assist young players with their progression as a solid player in the NBA (Demarre Carroll, Dennis Schroeder, Kent Bazemore to name a few)
Tim Hardaway Jr’s three pointer for the Austin Spurs on December 29th
At the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, despite averaging 24 points in the Hawks’ final two preseason contests, Hardaway was listed as inactive for the season opener. He was expected to battle Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, and Thabo Sefolosha for playing time as the season progressed. Hardaway also found himself competing with Lamar Patterson and Justin Holiday for time as he adjusted to his new team and their new game plan. Hardaway did not debut with the Hawks until November 24 against the Boston Celtics. Nine days later, the Hawks sent Hardaway Jr. to the Canton Charge and was recalled by the Hawks three days later.  On December 28, he was assigned to the Austin Spurs only to be recalled by the Hawks five days later.

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s slam against the Milwaukee Bucks

In his time since the two D-League appearances, Hardaway Jr.’s progression is notable and many Hawks fans are starting to fall in love with him in Bud’s scheme as well. With the solid contributions of Tim Hardaway Jr. during the month of March, the Hawks have won 12 of their last 15 games and as of today, they currently own the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. Hardaway Jr.’s biggest game of the season was on March 17 when the Atlanta Hawks faced the Denver Nuggets. After receiving more minutes from Atlanta’s second unit since the All-Star Break and with an injury on Kent Bazemore, Mike Budenholzer gave him the starting nod and he responded with a solid outing.


Tim Hardaway’s highlights from the Denver Nuggets victory on March 17th

Hardaway went on to score 21 points on 6/11 shooting and 2/4 from 3-point range. Two days later, when the Atlanta Hawks faced the Houston Rockets, Hardaway Jr. posted 20 points on 7/11 shooting and 5/7 from 3-point range off the bench. Hardaway Jr. is emerging as one of the key contributors from Atlanta’s bench which couldn’t have come at a better time as the regular season comes to a close. Hardaway Jr.’s impact also helps the impact of backup point guard Dennis Schroeder, who’s also been a huge contributor for the Hawks and Thabo Sefolosha, who’s one of the elite wing defenders in the NBA as the Hawks have vastly improved on defense since the All-Star Break.

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s slam against the Houston Rockets
Overall, Hardaway Jr.’s progression is the prime example of how Coach Bud’s system find ways to develop some of the team’s young talent into solid role players on a Eastern Conference contender such as the Atlanta Hawks and could give the Hawks the push they needed to get back to the level of last season. This season, we’ve seen the Eastern Conference competition really tighten up as the post-season approaches as teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and the Charlotte Hornets all have significantly made progress so the Hawks will have to deliver wins night in and out in order to stay towards the top of the East.

Tim Hardaway Jr. #10 of the Atlanta Hawks goes for the dunk against the Brooklyn Nets during the game on January 16, 2016 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
January 16, 2016| Credit: Scott Cunningham

The Hawks are still one of the best teams in the East and still have what it takes to make another appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals; however, if they are going to return, you need players such as Hardaway Jr. to carry their impact into the NBA Playoffs. Although we’ve seen a second half resurgence from him, Coach Bud may create a few tweaks, but he’ll more than likely keep the rotation the same. He’s solid but time will tell if Atlanta will give him a starting role as the season winds down.

ATLANTA, GA – MARCH 17: Tim Hardaway Jr. #10 of the Atlanta Hawks dunks against the Denver Nuggets on March 17, 2016 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

The former Michigan standout has shown that he’s matured and more focused than we’ve seen in his career. Truth be told, Hardaway Jr. still has more to prove and Hawks fans hope this is just the beginning of his impact in Atlanta’s offense. In conclusion, Tim Hardaway Jr. has earned respect from his teammates and coaching staff. His impact is starting to electrify the Sixth Man crew and Hawks fans everywhere when he pulls up to hit an open three or even better when he emerges for a thunderous slam dunk. Hawks fans, buckle your seat belts, this could be the beginning of another special player emerging in an Atlanta Hawks uniform. T-H-J!!!!!

Garrett Brown: (@_GMB96)
Edited By: Nathan Butler Jr. (@ATLSportsNate) 

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