It’s hard to make broad judgments at the NBA’s Vegas Summer League with the lesser competition, watered down system basketball and small sample size of minutes skewing accurate analysis. Picking up a few specifics in players’ games won’t do any harm, but using Summer League as a barometer of their overall ability and potential is risky. Still, a decent rule of thumb is that if a player is far outperforming his peers, he’s probably ready to move on to the NBA for good.
One player that’ll be looking to make this Summer League trip his last is the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway is coming off a strong rookie campaign, a pleasant surprise out of the 24th pick in a weak draft. His athleticism was badly needed for a Knicks team that slogged up and down the court, enough so that he was the team’s best transition scorer. Hardaway’s half-court game was less impressive, showing little variety but plenty of upside. Hardaway knocked in 37.6% of his catch-and-shoot threes per SportVU, and had occasional flashes crafty finishes around the bucket. On the defensive end, the Michigan product left a lot to be desired, but has the foot speed to one day be effective there.
Hardaway is easily the best player on New York’s Summer League roster, and has a rotation spot at the backup two guard awaiting him if he displays enough improvement to earn it. This starts in Vegas, where Phil Jackson and the new front office management will be keeping a close eye on the neophyte. If his first game of the summer is any indication, Hardaway won’t be shy in making his game known.
In the Knicks’ Summer League opener against the Mavercks, Hardaway Jr. put up 15 field goal attempts – 10 of which were threes – in 25 minutes of action. He finished with a game-high 25 points, thanks to 12 trips to the line. Hardaway only averaged 2.5 free throw attempts per-36 minutes in his rookie year, rarely looking to go at opponents in the paint. This could be a sign of added aggressiveness to his offensive approach, or just a one-game anomaly. Either way, Hardaway Jr. wants it known that he doesn’t belong.