Amid the ongoing lull of NBA action, Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlise found himself on the Hoop, Adjacent podcast with David Aldridge over at the Athletic. The full podcast featured a winding conversation touched on the possibility of resuming play and the effect on the league going forward, the Mavs’ impressive offense this season, and the 2011 title team. And when you’re talking Mavericks, it would be hard to skip over the team’s blockbuster trade with the Knicks last season.
As Carlise made a point about how moving on from Dennis Smith Jr allowed Luka to become the team’s full time point guard, (and give us the first glimpses of the impressive rookie season that was to come) he added a couple additional insights about some of the players that came back in the trade.
Porzingis, obviously, was the biggest prize, but Rick made it a point to heap some praise on the other vets who managed to escape the Kicks; Tim Hardaway Jr and Courtney Lee.
Hardaway Jr has reached peak Hardaway Jr
With regards to Hardaway Jr, Carlise had this to say:
“We liked Tim Hardaway and ever since Tim Hardaway’s gotten healthy, he’s been phenomenally good for us this year.”
It’s true. Hardaway Jr and his $18M/yr contract was immediately labeled as a salary dump in the aftermath of the trade. More optimistic fans were hoping that THJ might revert to the player he was in Atlanta when he was scoring 14.5 points a game and shooting .357 from beyond the arc. In his final season in New York, before he was traded, Hardaway Jr was still showing his panache for putting points on the board with over 19 a game, but at a rate that gave him the worst effective field goal percent of his career at just .469; low efficiency that’s anathema to today’s league.
The last half of his season with Dallas was largely more of the same, (decent scoring on poor efficiency) which led to many Mavericks fans putting a trade target on his back coming into this season. Hardaway responded by putting together perhaps the best season of his career, racking up nearly 16 points a game while shooting over 40% from three for the first time in his career as well as a career high in eFG% with .554. I guess that’s what playing with a 7’3” floor spacer and the league’s preeminent young shot creator will do for you.
Courtney Lee is the veteran salve Carlisle craves
Courtney Lee is a little bit of a different story. For the 34-year-old, 12th year guard, the numbers don’t so much jump off the page as they did with Hardaway Jr. That’s not to say he’s been bad, per se. He is shooting 44% from three on two attempts per game, and is Rick Carlise’s defensive Bradley Beal stopper. Not to mention, after playing just 88 minutes in the Mavericks’ first 50 games, Lee stepped back into the rotation as injuries started to pile up. He looked good, shooting 46/40/86 in 265 total minutes while seeing playing time in 14 of the teams’ last 17 games before the season was suspended. However, it’s his defense from the guard position that really provides value to this team on the court. Lee’s 1.6 DBPM is good for third on the team.
That said, the benefit of having Courtney Lee on the roster extends beyond the box score. Lee has something that hardly any other player on the Mavs has… and that’s simply the experience that comes with playing in the league for over a decade.
Lineups featuring guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Devin Harris made the Mavs among the league’s oldest teams for years. Certainly, they were never a team hurting for veteran experience. However, the Doncic-led sea-change in Dallas has meant that, for the first time in a long time, Dallas is having a full-on youth movement. What was once a locker room filled with grizzled vets is now one that leans heavily on guys like Courtney Lee and JJ Barea to provide nearly all of the necessary veteran leadership and insight.
It should come as a shock to no one that Rick Carlise is a coach who puts a lot of value in that kind of presence in the locker-room. That’s not to say guys like Powell, Kleber, or Finney-Smith are still a bunch of rowdy young guns, but you don’t stick around the league for over a decade, like Lee has, for no reason.
Lee, like Hardaway before him, was a player the fanbase was seemingly trying to push out the door as this year’s trade deadline approached. While it’s surely true that if a trade package had hinged on the inclusion of Courtney Lee, it would not have stopped the Mavericks from pulling the trigger, but in his comments in the Hoops, Adjacent podcast, and really all season long, Rick certainly seemed to imply that he didn’t mind seeing Lee stick around.
Of Lee, Rick had this to say:
“Another guy nobody talks about that we got in the trade was Courtney Lee. Now, had anybody guessed Courtney Lee would still be on our roster after the trade deadline of 2020, they would’ve been laughed at! That New York trade has been really good on multiple levels for us. Everybody we got in that trade is still with us and with us in a capacity that’s helped us win games.”
With any luck we may still get to see how this package of reformed Knicks performs in the postseason, but as it stands today, it’s clear where Rick stands how the question of “who won the trade?”