Tim Hardaway Jr. stole the show Thursday night in a thrilling come from behind victory by the Atlanta Hawks over the Houston Rockets. Hardaway scored a career-best 33 points with 23 coming in the fourth quarter to help Atlanta rally from a 20-point deficit.
As shocking as that sounds, we probably shouldn’t be that surprised. Hardaway has been a key component for this Hawks team for virtually the entire season. Consistency has been a season-long issue for Atlanta this season but Hardaway has shown remarkable consistency. Except for a dip in December when no one on the team was playing well, Hardaway has shown improvement across the board in his shooting numbers. (Stats via NBA.com/stats)
Tim Hardaway Shooting Splits by month
The Hawks have kept Hardaway’s usage static for the most part the entire season and his efficiency has gone up along with his shooting numbers. He currently has the best offensive rating on the team for anyone who receives regular playing time. He is currently second on the team in overall net rating.
However, his value this season is perhaps best illustrated in the on/off numbers. Atlanta has outscored its opposition by 143 points with Hardaway on the court this season and have been outscored by 171 points with him on the bench.
Hardaway’s story is an interesting one. No player on the current roster has gone through more of a roller coaster ride while in a Hawks uniform.
Atlanta famously (infamously?) acquired Hardaway in a three-team trade that cost them their first round pick at the 2015 NBA Draft. The deal brought jeers from across the internet and outrage from the Hawks fanbase. That only escalated when Hardaway opened the 2016 season on the inactive list and eventually found himself playing in the D-League.
He deserves a lot of credit for shutting out the noise and putting his head down and going to work on his game. The talent has always been there for Hardaway but he needed to learn that there was much more to the game than accumulating numbers.
Hardaway earned a spot in the rotation during the second half of 2016 although a groin injury in the final regular season game pretty much prevented him from having any impact in the playoffs. This season got off to a rocky start when he opened the preseason with a 3 for 30 shooting stretch. However, he battled through that and has seen his role continue to grow as the season progressed.
The trade can still be debated especially when you factor in that Hardaway will hit restricted free agency this summer while a draft pick would be under team control for a couple more seasons. Still, credit Hardaway for making the situation into where it is a debate worth having.
His breakout this season may be comparable to winning the lottery for Hardaway this summer. The NBA has placed a premium on wing players and Hardaway will likely be looking at a significant raise. Due to his restricted status, the Hawks will have the ability to match any offer that Hardaway receives from another team. Whether it is with Atlanta or another team, Hardaway has earned it.