On draft night of 2015, the Wizards pulled off a three-team trade with the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks to move up to take forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. with the 15th overall selection. Also part of that trade was guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. who left New York for Atlanta. Beginning Sunday with Game 1 against the Hawks, the Wizards will get a good look at Hardaway who has enjoyed a breakout season.
The son of five-time All-NBA selection Tim Hardaway, Hardaway, Jr. is set to start at shooting guard for the Hawks this series after scoring 14.5 points on 45.5 percent shooting during the regular season. A castoff of the Knicks two years after they made him a first round pick, the 25-year-old is now a focus of the Wizards' scouting report entering the playoffs.
"They've done a good job developing him," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "He's definitely had a breakout season. He's had a breakout last couple of months on top of that. He's averaged [17.5] points a game after the All-Star break."
"After the All-Star [Game], he's been lighting it up," guard Bradley Beal said. "He's been playing really well. He has a lot of confidence. He's been starting. Everything is flowing. Great for him. That's my job, to contain him as much as possible."
Hardaway, Jr. has indeed reached a new level since the All-Star break. He shot 47.1 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three. Brooks sees a player adding new weapons to his arsenal.
"He's done a great job working on his ability to get to the basket. He's not just a spot-up shooter. He puts the ball on the floor," he said.
Wizards point guard John Wall thinks the improvement is coming with experience. That, and something else.
"Well, definitely a contract year. That helps a lot," Wall said. "But also I think being comfortable. He's in a situation where they really use him a lot and to the best of his abilities. He shoots threes and can attack off the dribble. He's their go-to guy off the bench. When you get on a roll, you can get a lot of shots and a lot of minutes and you feel comfortable. A lot of this league is about is having confidence."
Brooks remembers playing against the elder Hardaway. Now, he is coaching against his son.
"His dad took it to me pretty easily. His dad was one of the best point guards in the game during that time. He's one of the best all time. He was just a monster at that spot. He could do it all. He was tough. He had obviously the 'Killer Crossover' and the three-point [shot]. He was a winner. He made winning basketball plays. His dad was one of the best players during the 90s," Brooks said.
Brooks shouldn't sell himself short. He was actually on the opposing team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, on Dec. 27, 1991 when Hardaway set an NBA record for the worst shooting performance of all time. Hardaway, then with the Golden State Warriors, missed all 17 of his shots. Brooks played 12 minutes in that game and at point guard, Hardaway's position. Pooh Richardson started at point and played the majority of the minutes vs. Hardaway that night.