On draft night, the Atlanta Hawks sent the 19th overall pick to the New York Knicks in exchange for shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. The move was met with skepticism from the national media and many of the New York beat writers expressed disbelief that Hardaway Jr. yielded the Knicks a first round pick.
The Hawks are banking on their celebrated player development model with Hardaway and the hope is that his second year struggles were more about the toxic situation that was the 2015 Knicks.
Charley Rosen touched on that for ESPN.com in an article about Phil Jackson's reasoning behind the trade that sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland. According to the article, Jackson met with Smith, Shumpert and Hardaway Jr separately about their struggles in an attempt to find out if anything was bothering them. While Jackson didn't come away from those meetings with much confidence in regards to Smith and Shumpert, Hardaway Jr's reaction was quite different.
Hardaway was more responsive, he says. "I told him he was casting the ball instead of shooting it. And if his man scored on him at the other end, Tim tried to get back at him by forcing up some kind of shot. Plus, his defense was hurting the team. He was not closing out on 3-point shooters and forcing them to put the ball on the floor, not trusting that defensive help would arrive on the second dribble. Still, [Derek Fisher] told me that Tim's defense was actually improving, so I didn't harp too much on that."
Hardaway seemed to take the comments to heart, Jackson says, and vowed to work on his flaws.
If he is going to be successful in Atlanta and the NBA, then that is exactly the kind of attitude Hardaway is going to have to have. The Hawks have proven that they can take players that are undervalued and help them take their games to another level. That isn't accomplished however, without a full commitment from the player. Hardaway has the physical tools to be a good offensive player and an adequate defender. Its about putting the work in as well as focusing on those areas for improvement.
Skeptics of the Hardaway acquisition remain and you can't really fault them considering the regression he showed during his sophomore season with the Knicks. However, if he is willing work and to learn, then there may not be a better place for him in the NBA.