Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Previewing The Roster: Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Out of all the players on Michigan's roster last season, Tim Hardaway, Jr. was probably the most hyped player coming into last year.  He did live up to some of this hype, but ultimately, many fans were disappointed with his lack of consistency and overall production.  I remember even commenting on it early in the non-conference schedule.  I think part of this is because of the high expectations he received in the offseason after a spectacular freshman campaign, but there's no doubt that he struggled at times.

During last season, Hardaway's numbers improved slightly, but his efficiency did not take the step forward that many assumed.  He did average 14.6 points, 2.1 assists, and 28.3% from outside the arch, but that wasn't really a step forward from his freshman year.  He increased his average points, assists, and blocks per game, but he also increased his minutes, fouls, and turnovers.  For a player going from his freshman to sophomore year, you wouldn't expect that kind of transition.  He made some big contributions to the team, but it was the fact that he took him an average of 3.5 minutes longer to make those contributions that concerned many fans.

Things To Look For In 2012-2013:

1.  Get Out Of The Shooting Slump
There is no doubt that Hardaway's shooting decreased significantly from his freshman to his sophomore year.  To say otherwise would simply be ignoring the facts.  Yes, he was targeted more by opposing teams, but he made 23 fewer 3 pt shots last season than he did the year before.  Yes, he attempted 20 fewer shots, but a big part of that was because he wasn't knocking down the shots when he attempted them.  By the time the season was over, he had amassed a 28.3% from outside the arch, down 8.4% from his freshman year.

Some might argue that the percentage wasn't too bad given the fact that defenses keyed in on him and his increased contributions from inside the arch and on the defensive side.  Yes, I will agree that his primary contributions should probably come from attacking the basket, but he was the starter with the lowest 3 pt percentage (excluding Jordan Morgan who never attempted a 3 pt shot).  Along with this, he was lower than bench players like Evan Smotrycz and Matt Vogrich, who both had some major struggles last season.  Does Hardaway have to be deadly from behind the arch to be a major contributor?  No he doesn't, but he does need some reasonable numbers if he's attempting 187 shots during the season given Michigan's slow paced game.  If he can get out of his shooting slump, expect some big things from Hardaway this year.

2.  Decrease Turnovers
Hardaway is not a point guard and doesn't pretend to be one, but that doesn't mean that he shouldn't be concerned with his handle and ball security.  If he continues to struggle with his 3 pt shot like he did last season, his main form of contribution will be his ability to attack the basket.  A big part of this is being able to control the basketball.  Part of his turnover problems last season were due to the fact that he needed to convert more inside the arch, but he still shouldn't have gotten worse.

Despite going from freshman year to sophomore year, he had 21 more turnovers during the season, which amounts to 0.6 more turnovers per game.  Of course, Hardaway was forced to handle the ball more, but if he can't get his shooting back to his freshman numbers, he's probably going to have to do that again this season.  This means that ball security will be the key to increased production.  Scoring more points is nice, but if you're giving away possessions on a regular basis, things are not going to look good for the team.  I anticipate this will probably improve with his shooting (the slump's got to end sometime, right?) because he won't be holding onto the ball so long.

3.  Be Decisive & Attack
This is probably a bit surprising given my previous two points, but I really do think Hardaway needs to be more effective in his decisions to attack the basket.  As I said, his poor shooting led him to try to attack the basket more, but there were long segments when he would simply disappear from a game.  For a player of Hardaway's caliber, this is not something that should occur on a regular basis.  Yes, he is going to have some games where his shot doesn't fall, but he needs to use his other skills to get the job done.

Knowing exactly when to attack the basket and when to shoot from outside the arch isn't exactly simple, but I think this is very important for Hardaway's development.  He has the necessary skills, but too often in games he would simply pass the ball back to Burke or someone else and disappear into the shadows.  It's ok to do this for a possession or two, especially when defenses are keying in on him, but we're talking about 10-20 minute periods.  Just look at the game against Duke when he scored 0 points in the 1st half.  He ended up with 19 points in the game, but 0 in the 1st half.  I would like to say this was a one time occurrence  but it happened consistently during last season.  I'm not accusing Hardaway of taking time off or not contributing, but if he is more decisive this season about getting involved in either attacking or shooting, I think you will see his production be more consistent.  He has the skills, but taking these steps will be very important to him having a big year.

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