Tim Hardaway Jr.’s stagnant season for the Knicks clearly didn’t bother the Hawks. Atlanta acquired Hardaway on Thursday in exchange for Jerian Grant, the Notre Dame guard selected with the No. 19 pick. The Hawks had previously traded down from the No. 15 pick in a deal with the Wizards, and with this subsequent move, newly commissioned president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer traded Atlanta out of the first round entirely.
Hardaway's fit with Atlanta is far from simple. To date, Hardaway hasn’t shown the multiple-effort (or even single-effort) defense that Budenholzer prizes in wing players nor any propensity to share the ball as part of a complex offensive system. His greatest selling point as a pro (shooting ability) faded within New York’s scrambled offense last season. There’s good reason to think that skill could be revitalized in the right context, though the Hawks would hardly be the most logical landing spot for a player who tends to fire up shots indiscriminately. Atlanta apparently saw something in Hardaway beyond his sagging shooting (38.9% overall, 34.2% from three) and leaky defense that deemed him worthy of a decent first-round pick.
Whatever qualities Budenholzer and the Hawks liked in Hardaway weren't showing through often enough in New York. Hardaway's play in his sophomore season had squelched the goodwill of his bulk-scoring rookie year and his trade value. For the Knicks to return a first-round pick for him at this stage was a nice, unexpected play. Phil Jackson and his staff took the opportunity to use that pick on Grant, who in his senior season ran Notre Dame’s offense with poise. Grant won’t be fully empowered by the triangle offense; that the system uses the elbows as its fulcrum forces point guards into a less traditional role. Still, Grant’s ability to patiently read space and movement should translate well to the way that New York hopes to operate.
Grant also provides a nice rotational balance to Kristaps Porzingis, whom the Knicks selected with the No. 4 pick. Entering Thursday, New York didn’t have much reliable NBA talent on its roster. Now it has two interesting prospects—a mature, steady guard and a potential frontcourt star—as positional bookends on affordable, multi-year contracts. Every rebuild has to start somewhere, and now Jackson and Derek Fisher have more promising raw materials on hand.