The Knicks haven’t had a first-round pick since selecting Iman Shumpert in 2011, and like that last time when management thought they got a steal, they think they also nailed their 2013 pick by drafting shooting guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. with their No. 24 selection.
“We think we added a good piece to our team,” said Knicks’ team president Glen Grunwald. “He’s a talented young player that can shoot the ball well and is a good athlete, good worker, and comes from a great program that has had a lot of success over the course of his career.”
If Hardaway’s name sounds familiar, it probably still makes Knicks’ fans shudder because of what his dad did to their beloved team during those classic Knicks-Heat battles in the mid-to-late 1990s. But the younger version of Hardaway is nothing like his undersized point guard dad, as he has good length (6-foot-6) and is a swingman who can defend three different positions. Hardaway is also a very reliable shooter who can get his own shot, which fills a great need for a Knicks team that lacked perimeter scoring and an interchangeable guard – not to mention he’ll lower the average age of a roster that was historically old.
Grunwald said he believed that Hardaway fits all three criteria that the franchise was looking for in their only pick of the draft.
“The way we looked at it was to get the best player available, then secondly someone who can contribute right away, and the third criteria was filling a need on our team,” Grunwald admitted. “You can say we have needs across the boards but it’s also true we only have two players under contract for next season at the guard position. The primary reason, though, is that we felt he was the best player available.”
Hardaway wasn’t predicted to fall this far, as most reputable mock drafts had him going earlier than No. 24. But this draft couldn’t have fallen any better for a Knicks’ squad that could use the youth and talent infusion at a spot that is currently up in the air. J.R. Smith will become a free agent after declining to opt in to the final year of his contract that would’ve paid him $2.9 million, Pablo Prigioni is still wavering about whether to come back to the team or go home to Argentina, and Chris Copeland may be lost to the highest bidder.
All three could be gone from a Knicks’ team that won 54 games last season and earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference – which is why Grunwald stressed that he’d need an immediate rotational player for a franchise that is thin in scoring wings and too cash-strapped to improve the roster via a high-priced free agent.
“We were impressed with his interviewing, his shooting, and his athleticism. Plus, we liked his overall demeanor. This guy competes, too,” said Grunwald. “He’s a really good worker, and that’s going to be important for a young player over the course of his career.”
Hardaway averaged 14.2 points per game as a junior last season — the team’s second-leading scorer — for a Michigan team that competed for the national championship. His shot was up and down during his tenure, as he suffered a season-long slump as a sophomore (41.8 percent/28.3 percent in 3s), but improved his numbers last season (42.9 percent/35.8 percent in 3s). Such a work ethic and attention to detail is what caught Grunwald’s attention during his private workout in front of the team’s brass earlier this month.
Ironically, Hardaway worked out in front of Knicks’ legend, Allan Houston, who had many battles with the player’s father. Grunwald joked that any animosity for a guy named Hardaway is in the past and added that Houston is happy to teach the son the tricks of the trade.
“I think the wound has healed for Allan,” laughed Grunwald. “I know Allan is excited. Hopefully Allan can add something to his development because they are similar players.”
Like Houston, Hardaway’s specialty is to catch and shoot, particularly in the halfcourt set. His jump shots accounted for 40 percent of his field goal attempts in the half-court offense, although he only converted 31.5 percent of his pull-up jumpers.
“I think he’s your classic two [shooting guard] because of his size,” noted Grunwald, who added that he sees Hardaway improving his offensive game over the summer and will hopefully be a regular contributor for years to come. “It’s important [he keeps developing] because these are the picks that can come in and contribute to our team, particularly when you have a first-round pick that you can technically keep for the next four-five years. … These are the picks that can make a difference. We’re hopeful we did that today, but time will tell.”