To continue our returning player previews, today we take a look at starting wing Tim Hardaway, Jr. You can view previous player previews here.
|Tim Hardaway Jr.
6’6″, 205 pounds
||Palmetto Senior High School
||Shooting Guard, Small Forward
Career Highs: Points – 30, Rebounds – 11, Assists – 5 (3 times), Steals – 3 (twice) Blocks – 3, Minutes – 45
Career to Date: Much like his freshman teammate Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway, Jr. was known more for being the son of a former NBA All-Star than he was for his own game when he arrived in Ann Arbor three years ago.
Hardaway wasn’t very highly recruited and was generally regarded as a high three-star out of high school, but those numbers proved useless. Before his first game in a Michigan uniform, Hardaway turned heads as the media started to realize that he was underrated – the question was, just how much?
THJ has the athleticism to dominate the Big Ten (photo by Duane Burleson, AP)
Timmy started every game that freshman year and was a consensus pick for the All-Big Ten honorable mention and All-Big Ten Freshman teams after lighting the nets on fire frequently and leading the team to a 21-14 record and a narrow loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament. And while his 36.7 percent three-point shooting wasn’t necessarily unexpected, he seemed to take over games at will when he got hot. Once a couple shots started falling, the other team would do just as well to leave him open, because Angry Tim was unstoppable, guarded or not.
The standout freshman year led to whispers of the NBA, but Hardaway never seriously considered that route, choosing to return to Ann Arbor for his sophomore year. Many fans and pundits predicted that Hardaway was as good as gone after the end of last season, but a sophomore slump put the NBA on hold yet again. Tim still had the ability to take over games, and when he got hot, he couldn’t be stopped; the only problem is he didn’t get hot nearly as often as the previous season. After failing to make a trey in only five games his freshman year, and only once in back-to-back games, Hardaway put a donut in that stat line in nine of 34 games last year, including three times in back-to-back games.
There is no doubt that the incoming freshmen will be integral to the 2012-13 Wolverines squad, and the ever-so-smooth Trey Burke will be widely regarded as the centerpiece of the team, but make no mistake about it – this team will go as Tim Hardaway goes. If Hardaway continues to fall into three-point funks and lose his confidence, it will be a disappointing season for the team that is pegged in the top five in the country in most preseason polls. If he returns to freshman form and adds a little diversity to his game, Michigan will be unstoppable.
What He Will Provide:
- 1. Scoring: Over the past two years, Darius Morris and Trey Burke have been Michigan’s leading scorers, respectively. Right behind them? Tim Hardaway, Jr. While this team will be expected to have more than two guys average double digits in the scoring column this year, Hardaway will still be called upon to put the ball in the hoop every night. He won’t be the leading or second-leading scorer on some nights, but he needs to once again be at least the second- or third-leading scorer on this team throughout the season. Hardaway has the ability to do just that with his long- and mid-range scoring and his ability to drive as well, but he needs to do so consistently and efficiently.
- 2. Length and Athleticism: Tre Robinson will be the best athlete on this team, but Hardaway has shown us time and time again that he has some built-in spring as well, most notably on an alley-oop against Michigan State two seasons ago in which he appeared to grab the ball from behind his head and throw it down with authority. Hardaway needs to use this length and athleticism to help him out whenever he can. It should come in handy in scoring, rebounding, and playing defense against quick and athletic opponents. And while it sometimes turns into a weakness, Hardaway’s long arms and high jump basically make it impossible for any defender to distract his jump shot.
- 3. Leadership: Hardaway has been learning for two seasons under the departed Zack Novak and Stu Douglass; now could be the season for him to make the team his own. Timmy hasn’t been extremely vocal on the court and is always careful to use the right words in interviews, but he will have to show a little fire to get his team pumped up when they are struggling or dismayed.
What He Will Have to Improve:
Hardaway struggled with his shot last season. Can he regain it this year?
- 1. Long-range shooting: Hardaway developed a deadly mid-range game last season from about 15 feet, but his three-point shot struggled mightily. He started to heat up from mid-February on, but it wasn’t anything like the ending stretch of his freshman season, when he made at least two threes in the last six regular season games. I believe confidence is a big part of Hardaway’s struggles, so if he can forget about his misses, he should see his long-range percentage take a big leap. There is very little wrong technically with his shot, and he has shown that he is certainly not afraid to let it fly in any situation (having never attempted fewer than two threes in a game in his college career); the next step is just seeing the ball go in and repeating. When Tim’s first shot goes in, he’s been great; it’s when those first couple don’t fall that a problem arises.
- 2. Ball-handling: Hardaway’s handles have often been pointed to as his biggest weakness, a surprise for those who remember Tim Sr.’s famed UTEP two-step crossover. In my opinion, Hardaway’s ball-handling issues are blown out of proportion; he certainly doesn’t have Trey Burke’s skills, but I don’t think he is much below average either. That being said, an upgrade in his ball-handling would make every part of his game more effective. Hardaway has flashed the ability to drive quickly past a defender, but he usually only uses the move when he is feeling confident. A normal possession for him consists of a few low, standing dribbles and a pull-up three in the face of a defender. If Junior can expand his arsenal of moves, his offensive game will be very difficult for coaches to scheme against.
- 3. Defense: Too often Hardaway lets his offensive play on any given night dictate his effort on defense, and Beilein has used a short string before when Hardaway’s offensive confidence has led to a lack of effort on the defensive end of the court. When he’s not shooting well, Hardaway needs to learn that a good defensive game can be just as useful as filling up the stat sheet. Hardaway will likely play a number of his minutes at the two-guard spot, where Douglass was a lock-down defender of sorts on the perimeter; someone needs to pick up the slack, and there is no better candidate than Hardaway, whose length, strength, and athleticism make him a prototypical quality defender.
Burning Question: Which Tim Hardaway will show up this season?
There’s no doubt that Tim Hardaway is one of the best players on this team and an intriguing NBA prospect with a nice combination of size, athleticism, and shooting, but he will need to show some consistency on both ends of the court if he is to realize his dream and follow in his dad’s footsteps to the League. Two years ago we saw a fearless freshman knocking down shots left and right from behind the arc while last year we saw a sophomore appear tentative and lacking in confidence. If Hardaway can shoot 40 percent or better from downtown, this team has a very good chance of making the Final Four.
Favorite Big Ten Opponent: Minnesota – averages 17.3 points (21-of-53 FG, 10-of-27 3-PT%, 17-of-22 FT), 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.0 turnovers, 37.3 minutes per game
Going Forward: Hardaway, Jr. is a sure bet to start every game barring an injury, and given his versatility and stated comfort level at both the two and three, Beilein can tinker around with his lineup while leaving Hardaway in whenever he feels necessary. An infusion of talent this season will mean multiple battles for playing time, but don’t expect Hardaway’s minutes to go down at all. His scoring average may decrease slightly due to a deeper squad, but he will often be on the floor, poised for a rebound or breakout season.
Stat Predictions: 15.0 points (46.0 FG%, 40.1 3-PT%, 77.8 FT%), 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals in 33 minutes per game.