The Knicks signed Tim Hardaway Jr. this past summer to a 4 year 71 million dollar contract. Many people criticized the Knicks for giving Hardaway this type of deal but I actually felt like it wasn’t a bad one. The NBA salary cap continues to grow and paying your second scoring option 17-18 mill a year didn’t seem too bad to me. Especially when he’s only 24 and averaged 19 a game. Tim proved late in the year with Atlanta that he can score and at times carry an offense. That’s what the Knicks were hoping to pair with their 7’3 unicorn Kristaps Porzingus. But Tim’s biggest issue has been his consistency to be a reliable scorer.
It’s been a really rough season for the Knicks who started off well but things really started going downhill for them when Hardaway got hurt. They were a game above .500 at 11-10 and were clearly a team that looked like they were still trying to find their ground and mesh with each other. Hardaway went down and although the wheels didn’t completely come off for the year, it certainly hurt the team and all the progress they did trying to gel. When Hardaway came back the team was 19-22. Not terrible but definitely a step back. But the record wasn’t the biggest issue, it was the team chemistry and other guys trying hard to compensate for Tim’s absence. During the stretch of games that Hardaway was out, Kristaps Porzingus even stated he felt tired. You could tell watching the games that this guy just felt really overwhelmed not having a number two guy on the floor to help him out.
When Tim finally got back he basically picked up right where he left off, averaging just over 17 a game while proving about 4 rebounds and 3 assists through his first eight games. Unfortunately the Knicks were now 23-28 and their playoff hopes were slipping. Then came the Boston game. It was the first game in a stretch of REALLY bad games for Hardaway. It was really the beginning of the end for the season. In the next seven games, Hardaway would average 8.9 points a game while shooting 26% from the field and an abysmal 11% from three. It was a really hard stretch for Tim but he kept a positive mind and was able to finally break out the slump.
What I really want to see from Tim, is him starting to take games over. When KP went down with the torn ACL injury this became Hardaway’s teams. I didn’t expect many wins for the team but what I did expect was for him to take over more games. He has plenty of tools to be a great scorer and with KP gone I would like to see him take that role. He has never averaged 20 points a game in the NBA but in this broken season for the Knicks he may have an opportunity. He’s currently averaging 19 points a game for the year, and since breaking out the slump has returned to a more reliable scorer. In the Knicks last 9 games he’s averaging over 22 points a game and shooting 49% from the field. I would like to see more of this type of scoring from him and hopefully have him carry it into next season. Watching him play, its clear he has the talent to be a clear number 2 guy alongside KP, and I think he can grow into a Bradley Beal type of player. A guy who averages around 21-23 points a game and is a guy who really spreads the floor for other guys because of his shooting ability. He’s 25 years old and entering his prime. Its now or never for Jr.