Most fans around the NBA were surprised when the Hawks essentially traded away the 15th overall selection in the 2015 draft for Tim Hardaway Jr. and a couple of second-round picks. It was an intriguing move, as there were definitley a lot of busts in the first-round last season, but Tim Hardaway Jr. had not exactly been a successful first-round pick himself.
Hardaway was drafted 24th by the Knicks in the 2013 draft and impressed most in his rookie season. He averaged over 10 points a game and shots 43% from the field and an impressive 36% from behind the arc. The Knicks utilized Hardaway a lot more in his sophomore year, starting 30 games. The increased playing time gave Hardaway’s scoring numbers a boost, but he was much more inefficient and even erratic at times. Surely, this type of player could not possibly fit in the selfless system that the Hawks run.
However, Coach Budenholzer said that he had been keeping tabs on Hardaway Jr. for a while and that he really liked what he saw. Budenholzer, who can seemingly do no wrong in Atlanta, made the move in hopes that Hardaway Jr. could really bring an explosive offensive element to Atlanta’s second unit. Well, Budenholzer might be mortal after all. The son of the former NBA star began the season inactive and finally saw his first action of the NBA season on November 21st. The action did not last long, as Hardaway saw his last NBA action on November 28th. In his first two months as as a member of the Hawks, Hardaway scored a total of a 10 points.
Despite the lack of playing time, Hardaway has remained positive and hardworking by all accounts. Coach Budenholzer turned to the Michigan product off the bench to face his former team in the second game of 2016. He only managed to score three points, but for the first time really all season, he looked comfortable on the floor. He was able to get even more playing time in the blowout versus Philadelphia in the next game. He scored 8 points, making 2 of 3 from behind the arc, and has played in every game since. Hardaway Jr. has played in 7 games in January and has shot 43% from the field and close to 36% from three.
There is no doubt this will be a sign of things to come. It is not always easy for players to transition to new systems. Hardaway has clearly not had the kind of transition he or the Hawks would have liked, but Hardaway has shown in the past that he is already a capable NBA player. Don’t forget, it was not too long ago that Dennis Schroder was regularly being handed DNP’s and D-League assignments. Now he is one of the most valuable assets on our roster. Hardaway Jr. is very offensively skilled and can help the Hawks second unit score points, which is something they have struggled with the past few seasons. The more playing time Hardaway gets, the better he will perform. The Hawks far from aced this trade, but Hardaway is still capable of contributing to this team, and Atlanta needs him to play well if they want any chance of competing in the Eastern Conference.