COMMENTARY | With the 25th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select Tim Hardaway Jr. from Michigan.
If the son of former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway is headed to Los Angeles after Thursday’s (June 27) draft, both parties should be elated. During his junior season at Michigan, the 6-foot-6-inch swing man averaged 14.5 PPG and 4.6 RPG while shooting 43 percent from the field. These numbers aren’t groundbreaking, but Hardaway Jr.’s penchant for playmaking, NBA-ready body, and basketball pedigree should allow his talents to transfer to the pros easily.
Help on the Perimeter
The Clippers have two major roster deficiencies: a lack of size and athleticism at the wing positions and a dearth of offensive skill in the frontcourt. With Doc Rivers finally taking over the reins after a long courtship with the Boston Celtics, it would be in the Clippers’ best interest to get younger on the perimeter and look to solidify their interior through free agency. For a majority of this past season, the Clippers started Willie Green or the rapidly aging Chauncey Billups at shooting guard.
Green performed valiantly during the season as an adjunct member of the starting unit. He started throughout the Clippers’ franchise record 17-game winning streak, even though he was clearly a stop-gap option as he ceded a great deal of his minutes to super-sub Jamal Crawford.
Billups was never a good option at the off-guard position and was simply shoehorned into the starting lineup because of his stature since the beginning of his tenure in Los Angeles. Also, he was never quite able to recover from his lingering Achilles injury, which has threatened to end his career.
Neither player had the size or athleticism to deal with the Memphis Grizzlies’ rangy perimeter defenders, Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince. The Clippers must get bigger at the position.
Versatility and Potential
Hardaway Jr.’s size and ability to shoot would give Chris Paul and Blake Griffin room to operate the pick and roll, as he would be a dangerous floor spacer that could rise for the jump shot or make a move toward the basket. He shot 37 percent from 3 during Michigan’s national runner-up campaign and also performed the best in the NBA pre-draft combine, nailing 19 of 25 attempts in the 3-point drill.
On the defensive end, his athleticism could bolster a perimeter defense that desperately needs a true shooting guard to improve. According to the NBA.com stats database, the Clippers slotted 26 out of 30 in opponents’ 3-point field goal defense. Coach Rivers will undoubtedly improve this inability to defend the long ball through schematic changes, but drafting a player of Hardaway Jr.’s caliber should help, considering that he potentially has at least three above-average perimeter defenders in Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe and Paul.
The Clippers could also look to take Los Angeles native and California Bear Allen Crabbe or San Diego State University’s Jamaal Franklin, but both appear to be coveted by teams slotted ahead of them.
With the hiring of Doc Rivers, the Clippers are thrust into the contender category whether they have earned that distinction or not. Hardaway Jr.’s upside and NBA pedigree will be useful for a team that needs a young player that is ready to contribute now.
Brandon lives in Los Angeles and watches sports more than a normal person should. He has written and podcasted for SLAMonline, and is a former Los Angeles Clippers Intern.