Philadelphia 76ers Should Cut a Deal for Tim Hardaway Jr.

With the Atlanta Hawks dipping their feet in most NBA rumors, Tim Hardaway Jr. is a name the Philadelphia 76ers should invest in a trade for.

According to a recent report from Zach Lowe, the Atlanta Hawks are looking to trade impending restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. for second-round picks because “they don’t want to pay him,” according to Lowe. This is something the Philadelphia 76ers should pounce on immediately.

I understand hesitancy in trading for an expiring contract, but Hardaway could be well worth a transaction. He’s a strong outside shooter, improving defender, and the type of young talent that the Sixers could greatly benefit from developing long term.

Philadelphia hasn’t exactly dealt out a great deal of cash yet, but Hardaway — even on a sizable contract — provides ample value to the team as a whole.

How we got here

While I’m not dubbing Hardaway a first option scorer, he provides the ideal tools to fit into the Sixers’ rotation. That’s headed, first and foremost, by his shooting touch from deep.

Ever since he was draft by the New York Knicks, shooting has been Hardaway’s calling card. His rookie season saw him emerge as one of the Knicks’ featured perimeter pieces at times, which is in part at fault for setting up the letdown that was his second season.

Inconsistency and laughable defense made Hardaway a liability at times for the Knicks, and they would go on to flip him to Atlanta in exchange for Jerian Grant.

Hardaway’s fit in the rotation

Now with Atlanta, Hardaway has seen many sizable improvements. While he may not have made many leaps statistically, his defense has made immense strides, and his offensive game seems to be filling out nicely.

Shooting 44 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range, Hardaway is the budding floor spacer that the Sixers need at this point. He’s quick coming around screens, and has shown immense promise with shot fakes and quick dribble moves off the perimeter.

THJ is probably the best athlete outside of Kent Bazemore in the Hawks’ backcourt as well, and it shows with his ability to cover ground. He makes swift, long strides when working off the ball, and has the ability to create space from well beyond the arc. It’s then a matter of capitalizing.

Hardaway has also made strides as a passer, something he wasn’t all that good at in New York. He’s a capable passer off of drives to the basket, and seemed to embrace the pass-first mentality that Mike Budenholzer operates in Atlanta — something that could mesh well with a rotation in need of initiators.

Here’s highlights from a game Hardaway played with the Austin Spurs last season during injury rehab. Notice how well he moves off of screens, as well as his quick release off the catch. He also makes a handful of really nice drives to boot.

Defensively, Hardaway still isn’t the most polished asset — but is much improved nonetheless. He moves his feet well and, when engaged, has proven to be a very capable wing defender.

An expanded role and potential for growth

Handed the keys to a major role, there’s a lot of room for Hardaway to grow in a Sixers uniform. He has the tools needed to develop into a reliable secondary scorer alongside Joel Embiid, and possesses the type of movement-heavy, floor spacing game that bodes well on Philadelphia’s rebuilding roster.

He’s going to open up more room on the interior offensively, and has the upside (at 24-years-old) that is lacking elsewhere in Philadelphia’s backcourt.

On a team that has been so starved of young talent in the past, Hardaway has real potential to be a steal — and a turning point for the team. A handful of second round picks in pennies compared to the potential he brings the team on the wing, and their ability to pay him this offseason is a valuable asset.

Ben Simmons thrives most with shooters around him, and Joel Embiid’s interior presence is at its best when complimented by shooting in the corners. The Sixers have the offensive pieces needed to integrate Hardaway into the offensive in a successful manner, and he likewise gives them somebody who can improve the unit’s functionality.

It’s an ideal fit — and the 76ers should be all over this one.

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