The Dallas Mavericks have one of the better rosters in the NBA’s Western Conference, with Tim Hardaway Jr. showcased as one of the team’s top three players.
When Dallas acquired Hardaway Jr. in January of 2019, he was originally viewed by some as salary filler in the larger Kristaps Porzingis deal. Now, he’s become one of the Mavericks’ most important players, which recently earned him a new contract worth roughly $75 million over the next four years.
Both ESPN and Sports Illustrated released their top 100 players in the NBA this week. Last year, neither of these lists contained Hardaway Jr., but both included him this time around.
ESPN ranked Hardaway Jr. at No. 79 while Sports Illustrated listed him at No. 96. Nonetheless, with how much talent there currently is in the NBA, being considered one of the top 100 NBA players should be an honor.
A Breakout Season
Hardaway Jr. had one of the best years of his career last season, averaging 16.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting 39.1% from beyond the arc. In what was certainly his best season as a member of the Mavericks, he often looked like the second-best player on the roster behind Luka Doncic.
Especially in the absence of Porzingis at the start of the season, Hardaway Jr. stepped up and gave the team the extra scoring punch they needed to stay competitive.
Throughout the playoffs, Hardaway Jr. carried a large offensive load, producing 17.0 points per contest and shooting 40.4% from deep. He was second on the team in the postseason in points by a wide margin while dishing out ten assists, good for third on the Mavericks. Hardaway Jr. also knocked down 57 3-pointers through seven postseason games.
The Right Fit
A great partner for Doncic, Hardaway Jr. seems to play extremely well alongside the Dallas superstar. As defenses collapse on Doncic, Hardaway Jr. is always getting to his spot and ready to knock down the open 3-pointer. This ultimately translates to more floor spacing for guys like Doncic to attack the rim.
Sometimes in the NBA, players just have to find the right fit. While Hardaway Jr. produced similar stats during his stint with the Knicks as he now does with the Mavericks, his role seems to fit better now. On a winning team, he’s a great third or fourth scoring option that can keep the team going when players like Doncic and Porzingis rest on the bench.
Hardaway Jr. proved effective as both a starter and a reserve last season in Dallas. In the 31 games that he started, the guard averaged 18.6 points in just over 31 minutes per game. On the flip side, through 39 games off the bench last season, he averaged 15.1 points in roughly 25 minutes per contest. Regardless of what his role is on a given night, his production per minute is pretty consistent. This allows the Dallas coaching staff to have more flexibility in what lineups they can roll out.
After seeing how effective Hardaway Jr. was for the Mavericks last season, it’s no surprise that he’s considered a top 100 player in the NBA. As he continues to find his groove in Dallas, he has the chance to only get better over the next few years on his new contract.