The New York Knicks have no shortage of problems, but there is one thing they have done rather well over the past decade, that is making the best of their draft picks. There are the exceptions: the 2009 draft when the Knicks took Jordan Hill over DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison and several others. But in 2013, the Knicks took Tim Hardaway Jr., and so far it’s one of the best picks in the draft.
Through the first half of the season, Hardaway Jr. has appeared in the most games for the Knicks (51), and has been one of the most consistent players on the team. Consistency isn’t common for NBA rookies, but perhaps being the son of a former NBA All-Star has helped the 21-year-old adjust better to the professional stage.
In about 21 minutes per game, he has averaged 9.2 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting from the field and 38.5 percent shooting from long distance — both are great percentages for a shooting guard. While he does little of anything else — averaging just 1.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.5 steals per game — many believe he can turn into an All-Star one day.
But for a Knicks fan base starved of any good news, it’s been easy to look away from the lowlights of Hardaway’s first half. Of late, he’s looked a lot like a rookie who has hit the so-called rookie wall. In December, Hardaway Jr. averaged 11.9 PPG while playing 24.1 minutes per game. During those 15 December games, the rookie had his first opportunity to prove that he was capable of a bigger role and that he was up for the task. He shot 48.5 percent from the field and an astonishing 46.2 percent from long range, knocking down 30 of his 65 attempts in the month.
Last season at Michigan, Hardaway Jr. logged 1,324 minutes for the Wolverines in 38 games. For the Knicks this season, he has logged 1,068 so far. It might be fair to expect that Hardaway Jr. is a bit fatigued. If so, this All-Star break couldn’t be better timed.
After a fairly successful month of January, Hardaway Jr. was rewarded with starters minutes through the first six games of February, and it hasn’t gone so well. In 30.2 minutes of action per game, he is averaging 9.7 PPG on 35.9 percent shooting from the field and 23.5 percent from 3-point range. Either he is being put on more opponents’ scouting reports, can’t handle more minutes, or perhaps he is simply fatigued both physically and mentally.
An important thing to keep in mind here is that he is in fact a rookie. He plays better at home: 10.9 PPG compared to 6.6 per on the road this season with shooting numbers that follow suit. He plays better when the Knicks win: 10 PPG in 20 Knicks wins versus 8.6 PPG in 32 losses. So as consistent as he’s been, he still is adjusting to the NBA.
He has been great this season for the Knicks when little else has, but he needs this All-Star break to rest and to talk to Hardaway Sr. about what to do when the season starts getting tough.