Despite not currently having any draft picks, the Knicks, who worked out Hairston on June 5, are reportedly very interested in acquiring a pick and using it on the former North Carolina Tar Heel. Hairston was supposed to be one of the best players, if not the best, on the 2013-14 Tar Heel squad before he was expelled from the school after traffic violations stemming from his use of rental cars purchased by a convicted felon. After leading them in scoring the year before, North Carolina decided to not pursue his reinstatement and Hairston then moved on to to play for the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League and prepare for the NBA Draft.
With this strange scenario in his past, many could be hesitant on drafting Hairston, but I think it would be a good move for the Knicks. Hairston seems like a guy who learned from his mistakes. He was very disappointed with the fact that he couldn’t return to play in Chapel Hill, but he did what was best for his career, he moved on and continued to work on his game.
Through his brief college career and trip to the D-League, Hairston has made some major improvements in his game. His first year at Carolina, he came off the bench in all 37 of his appearances and in 13 minutes per game, he scored 5.7 points per outing while shooting just 30 percent from the field and 27 percent from three. In his second season, you start to notice some differences. He led the Tar Heels in scoring with 14.6 points per game in double the minutes he played in his first year, shot 43 percent from the field and a scorching 39 percent from three. His numbers went up as well in Texas, shooting 45 percent from the field and scoring 21.7 points per game in 28 appearances.
There are two things about Hairston’s play over the past couple of years that impressed me. The first are those steady improvements on both offense and defense. He has continued to improve his shot and become more efficient over the past three years, which has resulted in a scoring increase each season. On the other side of the court, his steals per game have gone up every year as well (0.4 per game his freshman year at UNC, 1.3 his sophomore year and 1.5 in the D-League). I was also impressed by the fact that he has done most of his work from off of the bench. In those three years combined with North Carolina and in Texas, Hairston has started in just 29 games of 97 appearances. Kind of like what Tim Hardaway Jr. did for the Knicks last season, Hairston could provide a spark and some depth at the guard position off the bench.
Phil Jackson and the Knicks are very intrigued by the play of Hairston and even though it is unlikely they acquire a draft pick, it would be interesting to see if the Knicks could find a way to make this work out. Hey, even Juan Morrow, Hairston’s agent, said that anything is possible because “you never know what [Phil] Jackson has up his sleeve.”