Keith Schlosser, Lead WriterAs the Knicks await Carmelo Anthony’s ultimate decision, there are plenty of other question marks surrounding the team’s roster as well. With Phil Jackson hoping to piece some things together in the months that follow, perhaps some of those question marks will be answered at the conclusion of NBA Summer League.
There are plenty of promising young guns for New York to keep an eye on along the way, but perhaps one of the more intriguing prospects out there is someone the Knicks are already quite familiar with: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Whereas players such as Brandon Tiche, Cameron Moore, and even NBA vet Shannon Brown will be among those hoping to secure roster spots for this coming fall, perhaps Hardaway Jr.’s goal will be proving he deserves an even more expanded role next season, as he continues to learn the triangle offense.
Assuming for the moment that Anthony returns, the most wide open position up for grabs in New York’s starting lineup will be shooting guard. With Iman Shumpert coming off an underwhelming year and J.R. Smith’s ever present inconsistencies perhaps suggesting he needs to be set back into a sixth man role, it may be Hardaway Jr.’s time to step up.
Arguably the Knicks’ most consistent two-guard last season, Hardaway Jr. played quite well throughout his rookie campaign. Finishing with an average of 10.2 points, on 43% from the field and 36% from deep, there’s no doubt the young gun can fill it up with ease. He likes to pour in the points, and carries himself with a refreshing and bold confidence. He has a certain swagger, not known to many players at this point in their respective careers.
Also proving to be somewhat of a liability on defense last season, it’s clear that the rookie has plenty to learn about defensive tendencies in the NBA. Still, perhaps the pros outweigh the cons with Hardaway Jr, even at this point in time. He may be a better option than some of the other alternatives available for the Knicks to turn to.
As a first-year player, Hardaway Jr. displayed flashes of brilliance en route to proving he could hold his own with some of the league’s more talented players. Staying afloat is a more than respectable feat for a rookie. He played a supporting role, and did so quite well.
But NBA Summer League is a different animal. Not longer a supporting cast member, Hardaway Jr. should rise up as a star. One of the few current Knickerbockers on the Las Vegas squad, perhaps he’ll even need to emerge as a leader of sorts. This stage presents the guard with a huge opportunity. He should be able to stand tall as a man amongst boys.
Whether his time in Sin City is simply a chance for Hardaway Jr. to prove something to the Knicks, or if they’ll use this opportunity to put him on display for other teams (in hopes of pairing him up in a trade with one of the team’s larger contracts), remains to be seen. Nevertheless, this is the youngster’s time to shine either way.