The future is uncertain for the New York Knicks, but one positive to take from the 2013-14 season has been the play of rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., who's exceeded expectations in a year that the team has failed to meet them.
Amidst trade rumors, questions about Carmelo Anthony's future and plenty of losing, the play of Hardaway has been a positive welcome for Knicks fans.
Picked at No. 24, opinions were mixed on the Hardaway selection. Some saw him as one of the more NBA-ready players in the draft while others thought the Knicks picked him solely based on name value (after all, he is the son of former Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway Sr.).
Regardless of your stance on the pick, there's no denying that the rookie has been impressive. He's been the Knicks most consistent offensive player outside of Melo, averaging 9.6 points on 44 percent shooting (including 38 percent from downtown).
What's more impressive are Hardaway's per 36 minutes scoring numbers—15.6 points per game—as he's surprisingly still Mike Woodson's third-string shooting guard.
There's still plenty of work for Hardaway to do outside of his scoring. He really doesn't contribute significantly in any other area, but his offensive output alone should suggest he is a lock for the All-Rookie First Team.
Only Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo have been definitively better than Hardaway this season, with his former Michigan teammate Trey Burke quickly entering into the conversation as well.
Hardaway has been the most efficient scorer of the three, with his field-goal percentage being the highest amongst rookies averaging more than 6.2 points per game and his three-point percentage making him second amongst all rookies, behind only C.J. McCollum.
Though he didn't win the MVP, Hardaway stole the show at the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend. He led the game in scoring with 36 points, most of which came during his highly entertaining bout with sophomore Dion Waiters.
Hardaway has had his fair share of signature games in the regular season, too, eclipsing the 20-point mark four times, highlighted by his 29-point in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (in which he hit six three-pointers).
This season has been a depressing one for Knicks fans, but Hardaway has a bright future in orange and blue. The potential for a team built around him with Melo likely re-signing and perhaps a major free agent addition in 2015 (along with added cap flexibility) gives fans something positive to think about.
It's too early to say exactly what's in store for Hardaway moving forward, but there's definitely a chance we'll see him a few more times at All-Star weekend. He'll have to work hard to round out his game, but a smooth jumper, plenty of athleticism and all the confidence in the world is a pretty good place to start.