When the Hawks announced their trade back with the Wizards, I was a little alarmed, but understanding. The Hawks seemed to know who they wanted, and getting a few second-round picks, along with their guy, does not hurt. But after the second trade, I was certainly scratching my head. The Hawks gave up the rights to the 19th pick in the draft for New York Knicks wing Tim Hardaway. The move to retain Hardaway is surprising because he does not exactly fit the mold that Coach Budenholzer has established since becoming the head coach in 2013. He is coming off a season in New York in which he only shot 38.9% from the field, which is well below the Hawks team percentage of 43.1% from last season. However, Hardaway is a solid NBA player and a proven commodity, and the best word that can describe this acquisition is safe.
I preached for the Hawks not to reach for a guy with poor results on the floor and loads of potential. I wanted them to stick with a more seasoned player, like a Kaminsky, Dekker, or Portis. Hardaway is more seasoned than all of them. He played 151 games in his two seasons with the Knicks and is still just 23 years old. He still has great room for improvement, but is already a solid NBA asset. Just by putting Hardaway in the Hawks offense, his numbers will improve dramatically. On the Knicks, Hardaway was asked to do way too much. He was asked to generate the Knicks offense and create shots for himself. In the Hawks system, Hardaway will be able to stay within his own game and focus on doing his job, which will be playing defense and hitting the three ball.
Hardaway will likely spend next year coming off the bench for the Hawks. He is a natural shooting guard, but does have the size to play the small forward position. Even if Demarre Carroll leaves Atlanta (which I expect will happen), Hardaway will likely come off the bench for Atlanta next season. While it would be ideal for Hardaway to start at the small forward position, his inconsistent defense in the past will likely land him a role spot in Atlanta.
The Hawks second unit really struggled to score in last season’s playoffs. Hardaway immediately adds fire power to the bench. Hawks role players such as Schroder and Muscala will be entering their third year in the NBA and now have a little bit of experience under their belt. Both of these guys showed tremendous improvement from their first to second seasons, and I expect their growth to continue. Expect Schroder to take the next step, and Muscala to play a big role next season with Antic likely departing. Thabo Sefalosha will also be returning from the ankle injury he suffered in a brawl outside of a New York City night club. This addition of Hardaway solidifies the Hawks second unit.
Hardaway also provides a plan when Korver decides to hang it up or possibly come off the bench himself. Korver did have a career year last season, but he his 34 years old and the Hawks would love to be able to reduce his minutes during this season and upcoming ones. Hardaway, under Korver’s wing, can improve as a shooter and a defender and could very well become the starter of the future. He is a career 35% three point shooter and those numbers should only improve in the move to Atlanta. If he can improve his defense, which I really do not expect to be a problem, he will be a terrific add for seasons to come.
No, the Hawks did not get a future Hall of Famer in Tim Hardaway Jr. He likely will never even see an all-star game in his career. However, the Hawks did improve, and like I have said so many times previously, the Hawks were not that far away last season. Maybe Kelly Oubre and Sam Dekker turn out be all-stars and the Hawks miss out, but I do not find that highly likely. If Coach Mike Budenholzer was not in love with any of the possible picks at 15, I cannot blame him for going after someone he does love. Coach Mike Budenholzer loves Hardaway and believes he can thrive in the Hawks system. He stated, “We have had our eye on him for a while.” Coach Bud seems to believe the Hawks trade was a steal, and I believe in Coach Budenholzer.