Hawks biggest need next season is for Hardaway Jr. to step up

The Hawks have had quite a busy off-season.

 Jeff Teague is now a Pacer, and Al Horford is now a Celtic. On the flip side, however, Dwight Howard is now a Hawk.

With Teague and Horford out of the picture, Atlanta will have to find a new brand of ball movement and unselfishness that works with this new version of the offense.

The Hawks are going to have less flexibility in spacing and passing with Howard. The athleticism of Al Horford afforded the team the very same flexibility.

I believe with Howard on board, Atlanta will resemble more of a prototypical basketball team that will do it’s best to stay true to Coach Mike Budenholzer’s  style.

I also believe that to achieve maximum success in this system, we need a young, athletic shooting guard who can run the floor and be more versatile than what we saw from Kyle Korver last season.

Enter Mr.Tim Hardaway Jr.

Nostalgia

I love Kyle Korver. I really do. He is part of why I became a fan of the Atlanta Hawks.

My fondest memory as a Hawks fan is watching Korver nail four three’s in a row in under a minute against the Milwaukee Bucks back in the ’14-’15 season. I was sitting in section 210 at the time. I’ve been fortunate enough to make it to five playoff games over the past three seasons, and not a single one gave the noise that this moment did.

With each successive three, the crowd grew more chaotic. After Korver nailed the fourth in the face of Michael Carter-Williams, Phillips Arena exploded. The stands were rumbling and fans were running up and down aisles getting high fives. I accidentally spilled my neighbors beer and though he couldn’t hear me apologize, it didn’t matter. We had all just witnessed something incredible. But sadly, all things must come to an end.

My point being: Kyle Korver is not that player anymore. He can not dodge father time.

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Photo : Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY sports

His athletic ability has taken a step back. He simply does not have the speed or explosiveness of years past.

Korver did not have much luck in the way of injuries, either. For example, his exit from Game 3 of the ’15 Eastern Conference Finals resulted in him having ankle surgery and being out for five months.

One common criticism of Korver is that he has trouble creating his own shot. The decrease in agility has made it even more difficult for Korver to get open looks.

During his best years, Kyle’s bread and butter was to slingshot around those outside screens and with decreased speed Korver is not able to get back his basics easily.

Last season, virtually every stat that matters for a pure shooter like Korver dropped off from 2015, according to Espn.com: His field goal percentage (From 49 percent to 44 percent), 3-point percentage (From 49 percent to 40 percent), Free Throw percentage ( From 90 percent to 83 percent), and Points per game (From 12.1 to 9.2)

Although some of those numbers are still above league average, they’re all also less than his career average in those categories.

Context and results matter much more than what looks good on paper.

It is extremely tough for me to WANT Korver to be relegated to our 6th man. He’s a fan favorite. I just feel that the Hawk’s offense will be better off in the long run.

Change is Inevitable

Hardaway Jr. was exchanged for the 19th overall pick with the Knicks on draft night last off-season.

Initially, it seemed that pundits and fans alike were optimistic of Timmy’s arrival, as he was one of the lone bright spots for the Knicks during a dark ’14-’15 season that saw Carmelo Anthony sit out for 42 games.

But after an unimpressive start to last season, Hardaway Jr. showed some flashes of productivity, and seems to have positioned himself in the exact situation he was in a year ago: an unknown.

This season gives Hardaway Jr. the chance to establish himself into an important offensive role. As previously stated, a new offensive dynamic has been created with the departure of Al Horford and Jeff Teague, and with the arrival of Dwight Howard.

Howard will obviously be a presence down low. However, someone will need to pick up the slack that we’ll see in terms of ball movement and mid-range shooting that the Hawks were afforded with Al Horford. Someone who is more athletic, can run the floor without getting tired as easily, and can create his own shot.

Someone more like Hardaway Jr., and less like Korver, perhaps?

Now, to put this in to perspective, Hardaway Jr.has never been a world beater. According to ESPN.com, He finished his best season (’14-’15) averaging just 11.5 points per game while playing 24 minutes per game.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Atlanta Hawks

Photo Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

His FG percentage was just 39 percent, while his 3-pt was 34 percent. But that’s also because the Knicks were tanking after Carmelo’s injury, and Hardaway Jr. threw the ball up like he was playing a game of hot potato.

Unfortunately, Hardaway Jr. is still more of a question mark than anything else.

With a year under his belt in Coach Mike Budenholzer’s system and a declining Kyle Korver, Hardway Jr. may be able to catch lightning in a bottle and become the offensive force that we need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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