I think it goes without saying that most Hawks fans are not happy that the team invested a first-rounder in Tim Hardaway Jr. while he has been keeping the bench nice and warm for the likes of Lamar Patterson and Justin Holiday. That’s not a knock on either one of those guys, who have been solid contributors on the wing this season. However, it has been odd to see Hardaway not see the floor, especially with Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha missing a handful of games, given the investment we have made in him.
It’s not that he doesn’t possess the right skillset, such as other players who simply have not fit in Coach Bud’s system. Lou Williams was a great asset for the Hawks under the iso-heavy ways of Larry Drew, but simply was not the type of efficient player Budenholzer prefers to work with. Lou’s ACL tear was a factor in him losing playing time, but him not being a fit is what his eventual departure should be attributed to. This is not the case with Hardaway. He is best fit in a system. Coach Bud’s surely requires a learning curve, and I think a big reason Adreian Payne never saw the floor much for the Hawks was his diagnosed ADHD. Like Hardaway, he had what one would think is an ideal skillset for the Hawks. I just think the adjustment can be hard to make for some players more than others.
I really thought Hardaway Jr. was the steal of the draft at 24th overall after his rookie season. He played a much bigger role with New York the past two seasons than he is in now, averaging around 23 minutes per game. Those teams lacked talent, but it’s strange to see a guy who played that big of a role get DNPs with his new team. So what gives?
The Hawks aren’t publicly saying what the deal with the Michigan product is, but hopefully the situation is improving. The wing made his first appearance of the season against the Celtics on Tuesday evening. His debut came on the sixteenth game of the season. He made a lone three point shot and recorded an assist in 12 minutes of play. The next night in Minnesota, he played 12 more and made a couple free throws, brought down a couple boards, and recorded a block.
It will be interesting to see whether Hardaway Jr. will continue to get playing time with Kent Bazemore now back from injury. It’s still unclear whether this was poor scouting on the Hawks’ part, or if there was simply a big learning curve. Playing under Budenholzer is the first time the son of NBA great Tim Hardaway has really been exposed to real NBA coaching. Even Al Horford has said this season that he is just now getting real settled into the system. Hardaway being MIA early is concerning, but it’s not time to give up on him just yet. However, if your eyebrows are raised, that is surely justified. Let’s just hope he can keep earning more and more rotation minutes and prove he was worth a mid-first round pick.