By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
With the 24th pick in the NBA Draft the New York Knicks selected Michigan University shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. Yes, it is that Tim Hardaway’s son, as the former Heat point guard that has been vocal about his disliking of the Knicks but will have to put his differences aside momentarily as long as his son is there. Hardaway Jr. has said that his father will not ever put on Knicks gear; at the same time seeing there aren’t many Knicks fans that would want to see him in it anyway.
On the court Hardaway Jr. is a much different player than his father. If he ever turns out as successful as his father the Knicks have a great player on their hands. To bring Hardaway in, the Knicks passed over some other wing and point guard prospects they had brought in for workouts and liked; ultimately they went the route of the former Michigan standout.
Hardaway’s biggest strength is that he is a capable scorer. He can shoot the basketball with range or get to the basket; he has a very diverse offensive game. He is adept at getting his shot off the dribble, something of a lost art in the NBA as more and more players are becoming spot up shooters or only slashers who cannot create their own shot. Hardaway is also a solid athlete that with good size for his position. That combination of attributes enables him to see the floor well and be a capable passer. He can also play defense effectively when he wants to, something he will have to do more consistently to play regular minutes for head coach Mike Woodson.
Hardaway does not come without flaws as many players who are getting drafted in the late first round. His shot selection is sometimes spotty, something that will need to improve with high volume shooters in Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith already on board. Improving his ball handling skills would be nice to see as well; if he could ever develop the crossover his dad had he would be tough to stop.
This pick for the Knicks gives them insurance in case Smith decides to leave in free agency. The Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks are three teams that have shown interest in bringing Smith in. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Smith could very easily take his talents elsewhere next season as the Knicks can only offer him a contract worth just over $5 million annually, a number teams with cap space can exceed. Hardaway is not the player Smith is currently but is a decent option to start replacing Smith with.
To bring Hardaway into the fold the Knicks passed on fellow wings Reggie Bullock and Allen Crabbe. They also passed on point guard Isaiah Canaan, a player the Knicks liked during workouts with the team.
Players the Knicks liked coming into the draft were taken right before the Knicks turn to make a selection. The Hawks selected point guard Dennis Schroeder with the 17th pick, the Dallas Mavericks took point guard Shane Larkin with the 18th pick, the Chicago Bulls took wing Tony Snell with the 20th pick and the Utah Jazz took Gorgui Dieng with the 21st pick, which ended up with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Knicks fans will first get to see Hardaway Jr. in action during the summer league alongside other college standouts. In addition to Hardaway Jr., the Knicks summer league roster will include former N.C. State power forward C.J. Leslie, someone the Knicks actually considered taking with the 24th pick, Brooklyn-native center A.J. Mathews from Division III Farmingdale State on Long Island, center Jerome Jordan, forward Tony Mitchell from Alabama, point guard Toure Murry from Wichita State, point guard Chris Smith, the brother of J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert. The Knicks have one of the most talented teams heading into the summer league. The team could get even stronger with an invites on the table for center Henry Sims and point guard Tony Taylor. New York native Lester Prosper of SUNY Old Westbury is also hoping to get an invite from the Knicks for their summer team and would give the Knicks a very talented power forward to take a look at that has some similarities to Amar’e Stoudemire.
Mitchell and Murry were top performers in the D-League last season and will be worth keeping an eye on as the Knicks look to get younger and fill out the roster. Mitchell is a do-it all wing that averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Murry was one of the top point guards as excelled in the open court and is a pass-first point guard. He averaged 9.0 points, 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals.