Tim Hardaway Jr.: Lucky To Be Late

by Jonah Ballow

Last June on a warm sunny day in New York, Tim Hardaway Jr. expressed relief when describing his draft night experience.  The No. 24 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft watched as 23 of his classmates names were called on a stressful evening for the future stars of the league.

“Thank god,” Hardaway Jr. laughed in an interview with KnicksNow.com the day after the draft at MSG Training Center.  At the time, the explosive guard out of Michigan would have welcomed a selection in the lottery but a top 14 draft pick comes with a heap of responsibility on a team searching for a player to alter the direction of the franchise.

As the son of an extremely successful All-Star point guard and Knicks rival, Tim Hardaway, the new Knick inherited expectations in the Big Apple.  However, he joined a squad filled with an established group of veterans and the starting lineup was not an option for the rookie.  Hardaway Jr. benefited from a chance to ease into the NBA game without the magnifying glass focused on his every box score and a “star” or “bust” tag next to his name.

“I think I’m one of the lucky ones out of the draft, just to have all these All-Star guys on the same team and just to see everyone try to help me out each and every day to get better as a player and as a person off the court,” Hardaway Jr. stated.

It’s pretty safe to say Hardaway Jr. is the steal of the 2013 draft, considering he finished fourth in points per game (10.2) and 3-point percentage (36.3%) among rookies.  The 22-year old displayed a silky smooth stroke from the perimeter and attacked in the open floor at every possible opportunity while suiting up in 81 of New York’s 82 games this season.   Knicks fans were treated to a plethora of highlight reel dunks, celebrations featuring the goggles and “hold my phone”, and the injection of hyper-activity expected from the youngest player on the roster.

“It’s been great just to have an opportunity, like I said one of my goals was to get to All-Star weekend and that’s what I did.  Possibly in the talk for 1st Team All-Rookie, and get in the rotation for this team,” Hardaway Jr. confessed.

As mentioned above, Hardaway Jr. excelled in two main areas.   Per Synergy Sports, the Knicks rookie registered 1.31 points per play in transition and 1.03 in spot-up situations.  23.4 percent of time was recorded in those transition plays and the most in that spot-up area at 39.5 percent.  At 6-6, Hardaway Jr. owns the prototypical size and length for the position, which bodes well for his future in a league searching for knockdown 3-point shooters and athletic wings.

“He’s played well for us.  I mean, Tim had a pretty good rookie season, he shot the ball extremely well from the three, very consistent, puts in the work,” Amar’e Stoudemire shared his compliments following Hardaway Jr.’s rookie campaign.

The sky is the limit for the confident, athletic, and young shooting guard that averaged 23.1 minutes per game this season. 

“I still have a chip on my shoulder each and every day I play against the guys that got picked before me, “ Hardaway Jr. declared.

As the end of the year accolades roll out, don’t be surprised to see Hardaway Jr. among the group selected for the 2013-14 NBA All-Rookie First Team.  From the top 23 last June to potentially the top five in May, Hardaway Jr. was lucky to be late as he found the perfect fuel to motivate a standout rookie season.

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