By John Schmeelk
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Before I get into this, I should point out a few things.
The NBA Draft, like its counterparts in all other sports, is a crap-shoot. Scouts and team executives put a ton of work into it. They get all the information they can on these players. But in the end, every pick is a gamble. They make educated guesses, but they’re still just guesses.
It’s impossible to know how a young man and his skills will translate to the NBA. Anything anyone says the day after the draft is really meaningless, and nobody knows a thing until these guys put on their jerseys and play in games.
The Knicks executives have watched these players and talked to them face-to-face. I go mostly off what I’ve seen of these guys on television (I watched a number of Michigan games), research, and what I’ve read from reporters and scouts in the industry that really do their homework. I trust general manager Glen Grunwald as a talent evaluator. A couple of years ago I was wrong about Iman Shumpert, and I hope I’m wrong once again, this time about Tim Hardaway Jr.
I am not a big fan of this pick (I don’t hate it, but don’t love it either). Here’s why: I still don’t know what Hardaway Jr. does very well.
The Knicks were in a position where they could have taken three players that bring defined skill sets:
Reggie Bullock: He shoots the three and can really defend against shooting guards and small forwards.
Tony Mitchell: He is an NBA athlete that can defend and rebound right away, providing athleticism at the four. High ceiling.
Jamaal Franklin: An elite athlete that can get to the rim, rebound and provide a ton of versatility and toughness. Also has a high ceiling.
All the scouts say Hardaway Jr. is a great spot-up shooter and polished scorer that will be ready to play on Day 1 at the NBA level. But how is that true when at Michigan he never shot around 44 percent from the field? He shot 37 percent from three as a junior, but only 28 percent as a Sophomore. It might be excusable but he was never even asked to be a volume scorer. His usage rating in college was very low but so was his efficiency. That’s a scary combination.
He disappeared at times for Michigan and was very inconsistent from year-to-year and game-to-game. He’s considered a good athlete but doesn’t have the handle to get to the basket in isolation or in the pick and roll. He is not a lock-down defender.
The Knicks needed to get a versatile and athletic player that could contribute on both ends of the floor and score in a variety of ways. Hardaway showed he could do a lot of different things well at times, but at other times he did them poorly. Maybe the scouting reports (and my eyes) are wrong, but I never saw that explosive playmaking spark at Michigan. I don’t know if he can create against an NBA defender.
If he couldn’t do those things consistently against Big Ten players, how is he supposed to do it in the NBA?
I just don’t see it translating.
They bottom line: New York got a player that doesn’t do any one thing particularly well (at best he’s a good, but not great shooter), and by most accounts doesn’t have a really high ceiling. It’s hard for me to get excited about a pick like that. To me, Hardaway feels like the third guy off the bench that plays 15 minutes a game as a catch-and-shoot player. I wanted more out of this pick. It isn’t a debacle and Hardaway can provide some useful minutes, but it could have been better.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Knicks couldn’t trade into the second round. There are some undrafted guys like Phil Pressey and Myck Kabongo that the Knicks should bring in to play on their summer league team. They are both small but are quick, fast and know how to penetrate and distribute. CJ Leslie is a small forward that should get a look, too.
The Knicks needed to help themselves this upcoming season, hopefully getting a guy that can improve and be a key cog and potentially a starter in the future. I’m not sure they did that. I don’t think Hardaway is a disaster. He is a smart player that can score a little, pass a bit, has the athletic skills necessary to play in the NBA and can replace J.R. Smith if he leaves in free agency. But in college his skills made him an above-average complimentary player and secondary scorer.
Unless he can somehow become consistent at all those things he wasn’t at in college, I see little reason to believe he can be anything close to that at any point in his NBA career.
Other players available, perhaps, could have been.
To summarize my reaction: lukewarm.
– The Nets gave up a lot of valuable draft picks, but I think the price they paid was worth bringing in two guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They are now real contenders in the East, with both those players adding leadership, toughness and defense. With smaller roles, both might be able to be even more effective later in the season too. Garnett is a difference maker on the defense more than anything. I doubt, however, Jason Kidd will be able to implement his plan to run and gun. Give the Nets credit. They want to win now and they are doing everything they can to accomplish their goal.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and New York sports.
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