By Tommy Rothman
On June 27, 2013, Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. watched and waited as 23 other young players from across the world were drafted ahead of him. But seven months later, Hardaway stands among the best of all 60 players selected that night.
Hardaway's combination of deadly shooting ability and explosive athleticism is rare and could make him a special player. He brings unlimited energy to the table, and his flair for the dramatic has already resulted in several highlight dunks. Hardaway has quickly become a crowd favorite at the Garden due to his electric play when he is on the court and his fun, crowd-engaging celebrations when he is on the bench.
Hardaway's knack for getting timely hoops should come as no surprise; as a leader of Michigan's team last year, he made many big shots on the way to the national championship game.
Hardaway's talents manifest themselves in the box score every night. His 47 percent success rate from the field ranks second among NBA Rookies and his 42 percent mark from downtown is higher than that of any other first-year player. His 81% shooting from the free throw line is the fourth best percentage from a rookie, and, despite playing less than 20 minutes a game, Hardaway's 9.3 points per game make him the fourth most prolific scorer in this year's rookie class.
Adjusting for playing time and opportunity, Hardaway becomes the second most prolific rookie scorer; at 22 points per 48 minutes, he's just a shade below Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams. Advanced statistics have been kind to Hardaway as well: among rookies, Hardaway is fourth in player efficiency rating (PER), third in true shooting percentage, and third in turnover rate.
Hardaway will be headed to New Orleans in a couple weeks to showcase his skills in the Rising Stars Challenge alongside the rest of the league's best first and second-year players. If he continues to improve and his minutes continue to increase, Hardaway could make a serious run at the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
The rookie has made an impact right out of the gate, and is already making general managers across the league wonder how he fell into the Knicks' lap at pick number 24. But while he may have gotten overlooked in June, nobody's ignoring him now.