What Is Wrong With Tim Hardaway, Jr?Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 6th, 2012
It was a year ago today that Michigan basketball fans knew they had something special in Tim Hardaway Jr. The Wolverines were on the ropes at Penn State, trailing by 10 with 8:15 to go in the second half, and staring a crippling NCAA Tournament-hopes loss right in the face. Then Hardaway erupted, scoring all 13 of his points in the second half, hitting several big three-pointers down the stretch, and establishing himself as a player who was not afraid of the moment — a true freshman who had as much natural talent and potential as anyone else on the team, and a bright future once he improved his consistency.
Fast forward 365 days and you see the same talented player with the same knack for scoring the basketball, but this season of Big Ten play has been rollercoaster for Hardaway Jr. He started off the 2011-12 season by announcing himself in a big way at the Maui Invitational, scoring 21 points in a win against Memphis, 19 in a loss to Duke, and 20 in a victory over UCLA. He was also a topic of conversation in all three of those games by ESPN’s broadcasting crew, and his performance seemed to validate that he was about to embark on a highly successful sophomore season and possibly become an early-entry candidate for the NBA Draft. Then, in Michigan’s next game at Virginia, Hardaway was held to five points, and the perplexing disappearance of his shot became a theme for Michigan fans to follow throughout the course of the season thus far.
The numbers make it an easy correlation: When Hardaway struggles, Michigan finds it very tough to win. In the Wolverines’ seven losses this year, Hardaway has only scored in double-figures in three of them. In their 17 wins, he’s hit double-figures in all but two (one of those being an easy win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff). He’s finding plenty of ways to score, averaging 14.7 PPG so far; but his three-point shooting has taken an unhealthy dip, dropping from 36% last season to a 27% clip this year. For a player that shoots almost six threes a game, that is obviously not a good number.
There has been plenty of speculation as to why Hardaway has been struggling with his shot. The departure of Darius Morris has obviously had an effect, as Morris was especially efficient at creating wide-open looks for his wings in Michigan’s offense last season. While Trey Burke has been one of the league’s best freshmen, his skills as a creator at the point guard position have yet to mesh as well with Hardaway, something that he has admitted to the media. With fewer clean looks to be had this season, Hardaway has shown a bad habit of settling for low-percentage shots early in possessions, perhaps to try and get himself back into a shooting rhythm. For example:
That is not a good shot even if you’re shooting 80% from the floor. John Beilein’s offense is not designed to take long twos with 30 seconds to go in the shot clock.
Via UMhoops.com, here are a few more examples of Hardaway struggling to find a good shot:
What has also hurt Hardaway is that when his shot isn’t falling, he is finding it hard to contribute in other ways to the team. In Big Ten play he has a 1.22 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is puzzling for a player whose father was not only great at creating his own shot, but also at setting up his teammates. Hardaway has struggled in that aspect of his game so far, evident in Michigan’s loss to MSU, in which he shot 1-10 from the floor and only collected one rebound and two assists.
Tim Hardaway Jr is still a prolific scorer, and a player that Michigan desperately needs if it wants to continue to be successful in conference play. For Hardaway and Beilein, it’s about finding better shots within the offense, and contributing in other ways when those shots aren’t going down.
Ryan Terpstra is a contributor to Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter @TerpHimself