Tim Hardaway Jr. is possibly the most confusing player in basketball. For fans he may be one of the most frustrating to watch. Hardaway can be really good at times and really bad when he is off.
Even in college, Hardaway was a member of the University of Michigan’s national championship runner-up team he showed flashes of brilliance. Armed with a silky smooth offensive game, solid defense, athletic ability, nice size, off the dribble shooting ability and creativity. However, on the night of the 2013 NBA Draft, Hardaway surprisingly slipped to 24th overall where he was picked by the New York Knicks.
Hardaway Jr. immediately showed flashes earning First-Team All Rookie honors with the Knicks averaging (10.2) Points Per Game as a rookie and (11.2) Points Per Game in his second season. During the 2015 NBA Draft, a trade sent Hardaway to the Hawks where he was expected to take the jump into the mid level tier of NBA scorers. It didn’t happen. Haradaway struggled staying on the floor at times playing only 16.9 minutes per night limping to a 6.4 PPG average. This could partially be attributed to head coach Mike Budenholzer’s complex system.
That brings us to 2017, Hardaway’s second year in Budenholzer’s system and his fourth in the NBA. Again, he teased, tantalized, and showed progress, but in the end, disappointed.
The biggest issue for the Hawks since the departure of Joe Johnson has been the lack of a scorer, not Paul Millsap or Jeff Teague, who both could get hot on a given night, but a scorer that could have the ball thrown to them when the Hawks are on one of their trademark scoring droughts and go get a basket or two. Not ‘ISO Joe,’ but a secondary stream of scoring when offensive rhythm get stagnant (as is often does) against big time opponents.
That was supposed to be Hardaway this year. It happened sometimes, but then sometimes it didn’t. We all remember Hardaway’s 33 point outburst that led a Hawks’ comeback win. That was the shining moment of his season.
But there were also nights where Hardaway produced 3 points, like he did against the same Rockets team earlier in the season.
For Hardaway, the talent and scoring ability is apparent, in fact his 33 point defining moment may have made him millions at contract time and teased fans and the Hawks enough to wonder if there is more there, is there a star underneath the inconsistency.
As Free Agency approaches, the Hawks are in tough situation because of Hardaway’s yoyo ability. Will the team risk losing him and see him blossom in the 20 Points Per Game scoring threat that his talent suggests he could be? Or will he step back and continue to produce around 12 Points Per Game.
In smart NBA circles, this the ultimate buyer beware moment, talented but inconsistent doesn’t bode well once given a huge payday. Hardaway is still learning what his role is in the NBA after starting for the Hawks this season and being more effective off the bench.
If he does return to the Hawks, they simply will need him to be consistent. The team’s lack of scorers will force a Hardaway to have the ball a lot, they need him to be a constant threat in order to give other teams reason to circle in him the game plan.
Jeremy Johnson- @Clark_Kent_75