Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — A huge roar let loose in the Barclays Center after NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the Knicks had taken Michigan shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. with the No. 24 overall pick.
The Knicks opted to pick a wing player instead of a point guard or a big man to help offset the possible loss of J.R. Smith to free agency.
The Knicks reportedly also considered Allen Crabbe of Cal, Ricky Ledo of Providence and Reggie Bullock of North Carolina on the wing.
“I think it would be a great fit for me,” Hardaway Jr., who averaged 14.5 points and shot 37 percent from the arc for the NCAA runner-up Wolverines, said earlier this month after working out for the Knicks.
“I watch the Knicks all the time. It’s great just to see them get up and down the court, a lot of guys are free out there, a lot of shooters as well. That fits right into my game and what I can bring to the table.”
Hardaway Jr. was the second Michigan player taken in the first round. Point guard Trey Burke went No. 9 to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and was then dealt in a trade to the Utah Jazz.
“We only have two players under contract next year at the guard position; it’s a definitely a need,” Knicks GM Glen Grunwald told reporters in Greenburgh, N.Y., according to the New York Times. “The primary reason we drafted him was we felt he was the best player available.
“We were impressed with his interview,” Grunwald added. “We were impressed with his shooting, his athleticism and his overall demeanor.”
Michigan coach John Beilein said the Knicks are getting an experienced player who can do a variety of things.
“He can do more than shoot,” Beilein told SNY.tv. “He came in as just a shooter. His range is incredible, though. He’s got great range. But at the same time..he’s become what we call a fourth-level defender where not only does he guard his man and guard off the ball and then guard action but he helps everybody else. He talks and he helps everybody else.”
Beilein pointed out that Hardaway Jr. won MVP honors last November in the NIT Preseason Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden when he went for 16 and 23 points, respectively, in wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas State.
“If anybody saw him play in the NIT the beginning of this year with Kansas State and Pittsburgh, he was sensational,” the Michigan coach said.
Beilein added: “He started every game he ever played at Michigan. He had no trouble just stepping in as a freshman. He’s been around the NBA life his whole life. We played and almost every game was a sellout. He’s used to the big stage, he’ll adapt very easily.”
ESPN draft expert Fran Fraschilla told the New York Post Hardaway Jr. was a low-risk pick who lacked a high ceiling.
“Hardaway already has an NBA professional mentality,’’ Fraschilla said. “He has a professional mindset, a high-character kid and well-coached at Michigan. The ceiling, though, is not great. I don’t see an All-Star career. A long-time rotation guy, very good shooter, not a great passer. But he’s solid and low risk.’’
Hardaway’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told SNY.tv his client was thrilled by the pick.
“At Michigan, you play on the biggest stage on a team that’s a terrific team,” he said. “Now he gets to go to the biggest stage in the NBA, playing at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks. He couldn’t be more excited. It’s a wonderful day for him and his family.”
Bartelstein doesn’t necessarily think the pick is insurance in case Smith leaves.
“I wouldn’t speculate on that,” he said. “Tim’s a heck of a player. Anytime you can add a talented player with that kind of athleticism and that kind of motor, you grab guys like that. I don’t know if it has anything to do with that.”
Throughout the draft preparation process, Hardaway benefitted from his relationship with his father Tim — the former Miami Heat All-Star point guard who battled the Knicks in the playoffs. The elder Hardaway’s professional experience has been invaluable for his son.
“I can talk to him about anything now,” Hardaway told SNY.tv in Chicago. “If I need help he’s one call away. It’s great to have a father like that. I just talked to him—he was like ‘Are you having fun?’ and said that’s all that matters. That’s been his advice since day one, and I’ll continue to do that.”
The Knicks still may need a backup point guard, especially if Pablo Prigioni leaves via free agency, and a young big man.
Unless they add a second-round pick, they will have to be creative in adding such players with limited salary cap flexibility.
(Jeremy Woo contributed reporting)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.