Tim Hardaway Jr., along with Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell, are the only Dallas Mavericks to be with the team since Luka Doncic’s rookie season. It took longer than some may have liked, but the team is finally beginning to feel like it’s in a new era. The consistency of his presence on the roster has been matched only by his shooting output. With how Dallas runs its offense, three-pointers are a must, and THJ fits the bill as a high-quality volume shooter.
Since he’s arrived in Dallas, he’s averaged over seven three-point attempts per game, and knocked them down at a nearly 39% clip when healthy. (He shot just .336 in 2021-22 when he missed the entire back half of the season with a foot fracture.)
There’s some recent scuttlebutt in the Mavs-Twitterverse as Buddy Hield’s name has popped up as a trade target, with the most obvious piece to send back being Hardaway Jr. It may be a case of feeling like the grass is always greener, or just yearning for new blood, but attaching assets to facilitate a swap is perhaps a much more lateral move than one might expect. It’s true, Hield is one of the elite shooters in the league. He took the third-most three-point shots in the league last year with 677 and did so at an impressive 42.5% rate. For his part, though, THJ shot 550 of his own, good for 15th in the league. Hield is marginally better by the numbers, and a year younger, which never hurts, but outside of slightly better shooting splits, Buddy doesn’t help in any of the areas that Hardaway, and the team generally, are deficient in. Namely, defense, rebounding, and overall athleticism.
The only question that needs to be asked of Hardaway Jr. is “are you good to go?” It’ll be his age-31 season, his numbers have been consistent for his entire stint in Dallas, and he’s fully bought into his role and what this team needs/expects from him. (His non-three-point shots have been declining slightly, even as his three-point attempts per game remain hovering around 7.5, indicating he’s even more focused offensively at getting up the thress Dallas wants him taking.)
Best Case Scenario
A full season of playing alongside Kyrie Irving (who had the league’s 25th-most three-point attempts, by the way) could potentially create even more spacing and open looks that Hardaway can cash in on. A lineup featuring Doncic, Irving, and Hardaway Jr. (15th, 25th, and 18th-most three-point attempts, respectively. All of whom defenses will have to respect beyond the arc), could very well be the most potent three-point shooting and playmaking lineup in the league, to say nothing of how many points that group of guards might give up on the other side. Still, if Tim can push his average North of 40% with the newfound space.
Worst Case Scenario
A slow start turns into a slumping season. In the 2021-22 season that THJ missed the back half of, he managed just shy of 34% before going down towards the end of January.
It was a similar story last year. Pre All-Star break, THJ shot mearly okay with 35.3% from deep. He finished the season on an absolute tear, shooting 50% from deep to close out the season. Hardaway Jr.’s biggest weakness has always been a touch of streakiness, but he’s always been able to put together solid seasons. If his shooting numbers stay deflated for a year, as they did through the start of last season, there’s not a ton of reason to have him on the floor.
There’s a lot of new faces that the team has big expectations for. Second-year guard Jaden Hardy and the pair of rookies Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper are exciting. New addition Grant Williams should fill a number of needs. But it would be nice if THJ could lead this team in bench-scoring.
Historically, Hardaway Jr. has always seemed to play much better as a starter than coming off the bench, but with Doncic and Kyrie starting alongside each other, Dallas will need a steady hand to keep the offense generating points while the young guys find their sea legs.
Hardaway Jr. is perhaps the fanbases’ favorite player to throw into the trade machine. In this league, every team needs shooters, and any team with post-season expectations could indeed find a role for THJ on their roster. However, Dallas shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to jettison him from their own. He has just two years left on his contract for roughly $16M a piece and contributes at a level that can’t be replaced by your average player.