Ask the Beat: What to expect from Tim Hardaway Jr.?

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan 5552012-01-21

Over the coming days and weeks we’ll be debating the 2012-13 Michigan basketball team with a number of people that cover the team daily. In a new feature called Ask the Beat we reached out to Michigan basketball beat writers to answer some of our questions about this year’s team. Rod Beard of the Detroit News, Nick Baumgardner of, Rob and Joe White of iSportsWeb all agreed to join up. Our fourth question looks at Tim Hardaway Jr.’s transition and ability to bounce back from a sophomore slump.

Previously: Which departure will be missed the most?, Will Michigan be an uptempo team in 2012-13?, Which freshman will have the greatest impact?

This is a big season for Tim Hardaway Jr. He wants to play the two, rather than the three, but also needs to regain some of his freshman shooting abilities. How do you see his year playing out?

Rod Beard (Detroit News): Hardaway’s move to shooting guard will be one of the biggest changes that helps this year’s team. At 6-6, he’ll be a mismatch for some of the guards in the Big Ten and could provide some rebounding help. He’s been somewhat of a streaky shooter, but with help on the wing in Robinson, he won’t feel the need to shoot as much, which will help him focus on taking better shots. He had a special freshman year and it’ll be hard to repeat that, but if he’s more efficient this year, that will be more help for this team. Hardaway will have another good year, though his scoring average may dip with more offensive options. But, that’ll also help in keeping him around for his senior season instead of testing the NBA waters.

Nick Baumgardner ( I think he’ll be fine from a shooting standpoint, if only because he can’t really shoot any worse from 3-point range than he did last year — 28 percent is pretty bad.

He does seem more comfortable with his role and his environment, though. Before last year started, all the talk focused on how he’d handle being the No. 1 option on this team, could be be a late-game closer, a big-time scorer and would he jump early to the NBA?

This year, it’s about how can he adjust going back to his natural position, and what can he do to help ease some of the load off of Trey Burke.

He was asked to do some things early last season that clearly he wasn’t ready for. Burke eventually took over more of those responsibilities, and once Hardaway figured out he didn’t have to gas up the team bus, cook the postgame meal and fly the airplane every night — he was fine.

People sort of forget that in his last nine games last season, he was a 45-percent shooter from the floor — and shot 36 percent from 3, eight points higher than his woeful season average.

There will also be more shots to go around this season. And from a percentage standpoint, that might help Hardaway.

He hasn’t turned into the player people thought he might be after his freshman season (not yet, anyway), but he’s not a trainwreck either.

His ball-handling still needs to improve, and he has to become a better defender. But if he averages 15 points per game again this season, and turns that final nine-game stretch into a full season, Michigan should be more than happy.

It’s all mental with Hardaway, though. He has to prove he can handle the ups and downs that go along with being an upper-echelon player in this league — and really, everything centers around that.

Joe White (iSportsWeb): Two things to me are critical for Hardaway.

1) He had a lot of ‘ghost moments’ last year where he was on the floor for long stretches but you never noticed. He has to be active all the time. The team is deeper this year so he should be able to burn energy, get his rest, and do it all over again. He can spark himself with more consistent defensive play as well. He has the ability to be a game-changing defender if he wants to be.

2) His ball-handling was stronger last year but still needs a lot of work. He gets stripped in the lane far too often and just doesn’t seem to have great hands on the catch and dribble. If he puts the work in on those 2 areas he is going to be an absolute monster to deal with for the opposition. I think his shooting woes last year were a byproduct of being disengaged defensively, and sometimes mentally. If he wants to go where we all know he wants to go, he needs to find the killer instinct for 40 minutes, not just the last 5. With a lot more talent on the roster this year I don’t necessarily expect a huge spike in his numbers, but I do expect his efficiency to rise, and for him to become a more valuable 2-way player.

Joe Stapleton (UM

As far as 3-point shooting goes, I firmly believe Hardaway will get back to somewhere around his freshman year numbers. This stands to reason based on the new talent surrounding him — he’ll take fewer shots while getting better looks at the basket. Nick’s point about the significant uptick in Hardaway’s numbers later in the season is well-taken. To me, that trend indicated Hardaway shoots better when he isn’t expected to carry the whole scoring load. He definitely won’t be asked to do that this year.

I see this is year as an opportunity for Hardaway to work on expanding his offensive game. When people think of Hardaway, they think of his 3-point shooting ability. But the truth is, he was pretty good last year from inside the arc, making 54 percent of his 2-pointers. I look for Hardaway to create separation off the dribble for good midrange looks, as he’s been able to do throughout his career, and use his quickness to get by defenders. The problem for him has always been his handle, which sometimes makes him a turnover liability, and other times prevents him from finishing strong at the rim. I think he will be stronger in those two areas and become a more consistent player because of it.

The wild card, as always with Hardaway, is his attitude. It’s impossible to say how he’ll react to his first 2-for-12 game from beyond the arc, or his first 7-turnover game. I think he learned a lot about being a leader from Zack Novak, but it’s time to put those lessons into action. This young team needs him to keep a level head in order to lead them, and he knows that.

  • sane1

    If THJ is playing 2G and GRIII playing 3, there will be a distinct lack of ball handling on the floor. I’d much rather keep THJ at 3, if at all possible. I just don’t think that Beilein’s offense will run very well with that line-up. Everyone focuses on THJ’s 3 point shooting, but big improvements to his ball handling are just as key, IMO.

    • Steve2081

      And put who at the 2? Vorgrich who is WAY worse than either Hardaway or Robinson in the ball handling department? Start Stauskas over GR3 or Mitch? Caris?

      • gpsimms

        of course we already discussed this, but i actually do think vogrich starts day 1 at the 2. I think his handling is better than THJr, and he actually did run some at the 2 last year, and did not look lost with the ball in his hands.

        I’m hoping Stauskus plays enough D to be starting by the time B10 season rolls around.

        I definitely doubt THJR. has improved enough in with his handles to be a serious option at 2–remember how much the off guard has to handle the ball in JB’s offense in the past.

        JB has been great at adjusting to his team, but having a Burke, Hardaway, GR, McGary, Morgan type lineup has so little shooting and ball handling, where Beilein normally like 4 shooters and at least 2 solid ball handlers. That seems like a major deviation to me.

    • Jay-Z

      Each one of the writers above mentioned that he needs to improve in the ball handling department.

      Also, I agree with Steve. You’re just complaining, pointing out something you don’t like, and not suggesting a better alternative.

    • fresh

      do we know that GRIII is a bad ball handler? obviously we know what THJs limits are, but that is not to say he hasn’t improved. I haven’t heard anything about GRIII having handle issues……just curious how you have come to that conclusion?

    • geoffclarke

      Need Hardaway to watch some Manny Harris tapes.

  • Mattski

    Loving this feature, grateful for all the superb recent content. Some of this necessary development (of Hardaway’s handles, for example) should have come over the summer–I wonder how Haraway is looking now that the team has begun to practice. I thought that Beilein’s comment that he seemed so much more comfortable, hanging around the office, etc., was encouraging; this guy has had a lot on his shoulders.

    Also: if Hardaway is mainly at the two, who is the first sub in for him–Stauskas? I’m looking forward to hearing what the UMHoops braintrust thinks the rotation may be. I’m feeling that Beilein, despite his established preference for playing a small number of players, almost HAS to go 10-11 deep in the beginning, even to figure it all out. It’s sentimental, but I am really hoping that both Horford and JoMo figure prominently in the plan.

    • A2JD

      I think Stauskas backs up Tim at the 2. Nik might get back-up minutes at 3 positions, really, but I’m guessing the bulk of them will come at SG. If Vogrich plays more like his Sophomore year then maybe he won’t get lost in the rotation but there are so many more talented wings on the squad now.

  • bluturns2gray

    The departure of Evan Smotrycz may help Tim’s play. I remember reading that they were roommates. Having played on sports teams myself, I remember the difficulty of being around a teammate who was unhappy with his playing time, coach and performance. Rooming with J mo, Horford and Bartelstein might just make for a happier young man and a better basketball player.

    • gobluemd16

      Very good point, I actually think this will make a difference. Smotrycz being visibly deterred on the bench was probably only worse at home.

  • gpsimms

    just curious: where’s your take on this one, Dylan?

  • Drae

    hopefully spending the entire summer at camp and some of those camps with Trey Burke some of his ball handling skills rubbed of on THJr… i think he’ll be okay at the 2, not alot of options besides him at the 2 IMO…