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Grading the Mavericks: TimHardaway returns to form as Dallas’ season continues to feel scripted

The Mavericks are almost too predictable at this point.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Team grade: C+

The Mavericks continue to be the perfect team for discourse. Their season, as they stand with an even record, has felt almost scripted. Losing four in a row, only to break the streak against the defending champs, and then lose to the worst team in the league without their best player two days later is maybe even too romanticized for a movie.

The Knicks win was the Mavericks most complete win off the season, and it came without Christian Wood. The defense was in flow, the threes were falling, and the Mavericks finally took care of business against a team that they had to beat.

Beating the Warriors was very impressive, but it did not come without asterisks. The Mavericks got lucky that the Warriors missed a lot of shots, and turned the ball over in key situations. Golden State beat themselves in a sense, and it culminated with Dallas’ lack of awareness on the final play. Klay Thompson is not going to miss this the other nine times out of 10:

In a weird NBA season, the Mavericks have been one of the weirdest teams. The jokes about them blowing a big lead, or losing to a much inferior team, have less been jokes and more turned into painful inevitabilities. At 11-11, the Mavericks need to lock in and figure out the right game plan for this roster before the season gets away from them.

Straight A’s: Tim Hardaway Jr.

To say Hardaway started the season on a cold streak would be a drastic understatement. Not only was Hardaway shooting the ball poorly the first month plus, it seemed his shooting slump affected his entire game, and was an actively bad player on the floor. However, Jason Kidd made the decision to bench Reggie Bullock (who also has experienced extreme shooting struggles) for Hardaway and it has paid off in a big way.

Since becoming a starter, Hardaway is averaging 20 points on 47 percent shooting from three. He has been more aggressive as well, driving the ball almost three times a game in the last three games, up from his two drives a game off the bench. For the Mavericks to be successful, Hardaway’s shot making is key.

Failing miserably: Maxi Kleber in the short roll

Last week, Kleber made a mistake in the short roll against the Raptors. This week, he had two opportunities against Detroit that displayed the risk you run when putting him in these situations. The first was in the fourth quarter, and ended up being a key play that helped Dallas get to overtime:

Kleber nearly traveled, but thankfully made a pass to Reggie Bullock for a game-tying layup. He did not look comfortable at all during this play, and the Mavericks are lucky that he did not end the game in regulation.

The second play came in overtime, when he did turn the ball over on a pass intended for Hardaway, which elicited a frustrated reaction from Luka Doncic:

A Kleber dribble is almost exclusively a turnover, and a decision in open space from him is Dallas’ worst nightmare. He simply cannot be trusted under these conditions, which is fine, because that is not his game. However, Kidd cannot keep putting him in these short rolls as it is hurting the team, and Christian Wood has shown much more competency to make a play in the middle of the floor.

Extra credit: Josh Green

Draft position has a high correlation with expectations, and Green’s 18th overall selection has been the leading catalyst for his criticism. Comparison is the thief of joy, and when you compare him to players drafted behind him, sadness sets in. However, it is no coincidence that of the top five two-man lineups that the Mavericks have deployed for over 50 minutes together this season, Green is in four of them.

He has become a good shooter, both mechanics-wise and percentage-wise, and has turned himself into a winning player. I have been out on Green for the last three years, but his play this season has cemented himself as one of the Mavericks most important players (which is scary). His development has been huge, and could help the Mavericks right the ship as the season approaches the new year.