Atlanta Hawks: Offseason Grades

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Apr 13, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) drives to the basket against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Trade for Tim Hardaway Jr.

Let’s get things started on a sour note. Initially I was not a fan of this move. I’m a bit more optimistic now, but there are still some obvious concerns. On draft day the Hawks acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. from the New York Knicks for the draft rights to Jerian Grant. Before that they traded the draft rights to Kelly Oubre to the Wizards for the draft rights to Grant and two future second round picks.

In the end the deal ends up essentially being Oubre for Hardaway Jr. and two second round picks. Given Hardaway Jr.’s inconsistent start to his career I’d rather have a lottery ticket like Oubre or even some of the other players still available in the draft at that point like Justin Anderson or Bobby Portis. But, what’s done is done. Hardaway Jr. is a Hawk.

He spent the first two seasons of his career with the Knicks after a successful college career at Michigan. His rookie season was promising as he averaged 10.2 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting and 36.3 percent from three-point range.

Last season his shooting numbers regressed. He upped his scoring average to 11.5 points per game, but shot an abysmal 38.9 percent from the floor and 34.2 percent from outside. That’s not the kind of progression you expect to see from a talented first round pick. His difficulties to fit into Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher’s triangle offense had him on the trading block all season and the Knicks finally pulled the trigger on a deal the night of the draft.

Hardaway Jr. is primarily a scorer. He doesn’t really rebound the ball well and has never been known as a willing passer, so his value comes from his ability to get buckets. At his best he knocks down three-pointers and can also get to the rim and finish. However, his ball-handling and finishing (60.6 FG% percent at the rim last season) still have room for improvement.

His biggest weakness is on defense. He has been a flat out bad defender his first two seasons in the league. It’s obvious when watching him play and the advanced statistics agree. His defensive rating was 114 (!) last season and his defensive real plus/minus rating ranks among the worst in the NBA.

While I still don’t love the move, I’ve gotten a bit more optimistic about his fit upon further reflection. It’s tough to judge much of what happened in New York last season given the dysfunctional nature of their situation. It has to be difficult to stay motivated while undergoing that much losing. Coming to a new organization, one with stability, could be exactly what Hardaway Jr. needs to get his career back on track.

With a penetrator like Jeff Teague and a shooter like Kyle Korver on the other side of the court, Hardaway Jr. is going to get plenty of open shots. If he can knock down three-pointers, learn to pass up a good shot for a great shot and play at least passable defense then he can fit in nicely. Will all of that happen? I’m still not certain, but I feel better than I did in July.

Grade: C +

Next: One Rim Protector Please