Three days ago, Tim Hardaway Jr. was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. It was the third time in four years that the New York Knicks have had a rookie make the All-Rookie First Team, as Hardaway Jr. joined Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields‘s company for the honor.
No doubt, too, that Hardaway was impressive in his first season in the NBA. He showed the ability to space the floor for the Knicks, hit big three-pointers, and take it to the rim and use his incredible athleticism to finish like polished veteran. He quickly became a fan-favorite for his offensive explosions and ability to get the Knicks back into games by piling on heaps of points.
Yet despite all of these things, Hardaway Jr. was still one of several Knicks to have a negative net rating while he was on the floor. For all of his own offensive talents, the Knicks weren’t better offensively with him on the floor and they certainly weren’t better at defense, either. If Hardaway hopes to become a prominent part of the Knicks’ rotations and the team’s future, they’re going to need him to make that next step in his second season.
Though he had sold shooting numbers in his rookie year — 10.8 points per game on 42.8% FG, 36% 3FG — his other numbers were lacking — just 1.5 rebounds and .8 assists per game. The assists number in particular suggests that Hardaway Jr. did little else but shoot while he was on the floor.
Hardaway was never a passer in college, either, but with more minutes and a higher usage rate, he still averaged 2.1 assists and 2.4 per game in his sophomore and junior years, respectively, improving his numbers each year. As Hardaway develops his offensive game, becoming a more deadly spot-up shooter and more equipped off the dribble, he should be able to find teammates and create for them more to improve his assist numbers.
However, where Hardaway Jr. really must improve is rebounding. For his size and athleticism, Hardaway’s rebounding numbers are borderline unacceptable. According to basketball-reference, Hardaway had just a 3.6% total rebound percentage, which puts him in the bottom 11 guards in the NBA for such a stat. On defense, Hardaway would often leak out, hoping for a transition bucket (which is OK, because he’s arguably the Knicks’ best transition player), but for a team that struggled rebounding the ball, he also needs to be there to help finish up a defensive possession, especially because the Knicks rarely did such a thing.
Hardaway should look to Iman Shumpert’s rebounding efforts for inspiration. Shumpert isn’t a great rebounder by any means, but he uses his athleticism and ball-hawking abilities to help clean up the defensive boards and create new offensive possessions for the Knicks.
We can congratulate Tim Hardaway Jr. for his rookie accomplishments, but for a player with serious potential, he and the Knicks should both concentrate on rounding out his game to help him reach his ultimate ceiling.