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Tim Hardaway Jr. played himself into big money this offseason

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Hardaway Jr. established himself as one of the league’s best shot-makers this year.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Season in review

The current relationship between Mavericks fans and Tim Hardaway Jr. can only be described through this viral video from the YouTube web series, “Hot Ones”:

When the Knicks dealt Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks in January of 2019, Hardaway Jr. was viewed as a “throw-in” in the trade. Now, the 6-5 sharpshooter from Michigan has completely flipped the script; so much so that Dallas fans have referred to the aforementioned trade as the “Tim Hardaway trade”.

Defensively, Hardaway Jr. wasn’t great. With his 6-5, 205 pound frame, he has the type of build to be the 3-and-D player that is so valuable in the modern NBA. In reality, however, he is an average one-on-one defender at best. A lot of times players like this are able to be hid in a great defensive concept and can actually be plus defenders in some scenarios. This also was not seen to fruition because Hardaway was not good off the ball either. His rotations were often late, his closeouts were fairly weak, and his positioning was, more times than not, a step off. However, he was not brought to Dallas to defend, and his offense this year more than made up for his faults on the defensive end, and was the catalyst for him eventually gaining the starting spot over Josh Richardson.

Coming off a career-best 39.8 percent from deep in his first season in Dallas, Hardaway Jr. built upon his progress by shooting 39.1 percent from three on 0.3 more attempts per game, and increased his scoring average to 16.6 points (from 15.8 in 2019-20). He showed off more than just his three point shooting ability, as he took a number of pull up jumpers and attacked the rim throughout the season. It felt as if there was at least one hard attack to the cup from Hardaway Jr. each night. He earned himself a lot of money this summer by showcasing his scoring repertoire all year long.

Best Game

It was tough to choose between April 29th at Detroit or May 4th at Miami, but Hardaway‘s 36 points on 54 percent shooting against the Heat won out. Not only did he shoot 13-of-24 from the field, but he knocked down 10 of his 18 threes, tying a franchise record and setting his personal one.

Kristaps Porzingis didn’t play, and Dallas was down for most of the first half. Hardaway Jr. hit two threes in the final 3.5 minutes of the first half to propel Dallas to a nine point lead at halftime. This was only a shadow of things to come, as Hardaway Jr. exploded for 18 points in the third quarter and helped Dallas blow open a 21 point lead after three.

Two more threes in the fourth quarter put him at 36 points and 10 threes, thus tying the Mavericks single-game record for most threes. Hardaway Jr. attempted three more triples down the stretch and missed them all, along with setting the new franchise record. The Mavericks beat Miami 127-113.

Contract Status

On November 19, 2020, Tim Hardaway Jr. opted into the final year of his 4-year, $71 million deal. The Mavericks and Hardaway Jr. have not agreed upon any extension, making the eight year guard an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Looking Ahead

The Mavericks have a big summer ahead of them. They will have the most cap space they are going to have for the next 3-5 years (assuming they retain Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic signs the max extension), and there are many holes to cover up. If you ask Hardaway Jr., he thinks he has found a home in Dallas:

Former Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said that signing Hardaway Jr. was a priority for them. His shooting is invaluable, especially next to Luka Doncic, but his play this year has made him an expensive asset. He will command a multi-year deal upwards of $20 million a year and if the Mavericks want to retain him, they are going to have to pay him.

I see him in a Mavericks uniform next season. If the Mavericks want to make the roster changes necessary they are going to have to move pieces regardless, so paying a lot for Tim Hardaway Jr. is a deal the Mavericks should make. The number one asset in today’s league in shooting and Hardaway Jr. is an incredible shot maker. His growth from a “why would you take that” shooter to a “how can we get him more shots” shooter should not be understated, and if he can improve defensively or at least fit in a defensive concept, he will be worth every penny.