With a new era starting in Dallas, attention can now be turned to the Mavericks’ offseason. One of the biggest questions facing new GM Nico Harrison is what to do with Tim Hardaway Jr. The former Michigan man is a free agent for the first time since arriving in Dallas in 2019. Hardaway Jr. has exceeded all expectations and will have his share of suitors in the free agency market. These are the reasons why the Dallas Mavericks must resign Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is the Dallas Mavericks’ best three-point shooter
Last season, the Mavericks’ offense was based around Luka Doncic finding shooters behind the arc. However, Dallas was mediocre at hitting those shots. They took the sixth-most three-point attempts in the NBA, but had the 17th best percentage. One of the only consistently good shooters on the Mavs was Hardaway Jr..
The former Michigan star hit a career high 39% on threes in both of his full seasons in Dallas. Since arriving from the New York Knicks, Hardaway Jr. has drastically improved his offensive game. His shooting kept Dallas in games, especially on nights when Kristaps Porzingis was injured or not playing well.
Rick Carlisle is now in Indiana and it’s unclear if new coach Jason Kidd’s offense will have the same emphasis on threes, but reliable shot makers are valuable to any team. Dallas doesn’t currently have anyone else on the roster who fits that role. Re-signing Hardaway Jr. is a must for that reason alone.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was often the Dallas Mavericks’ second best scorer
Despite coming off the bench, Hardaway Jr. was an integral part of the Dallas offense. He almost always played in the closing lineup — replacing Josh Richardson — because his consistent shot making outweighed his defensive liabilities.
Part of the reason Hardaway Jr. came off the bench was the lack of offensive talent on the roster. Besides Doncic and a little bit of Jalen Brunson, Hardaway Jr. was the only player on the team who could create his own shot. The second unit would have struggled for offense without Tim Hardaway Jr.
Porzingis is ostensibly the second scorer on Dallas, but he played just 43 games this past season. In comparison, Hardaway Jr. played 70 out of a possible 72 games. He picked up the slack from Porzingis and was the second-most important player on the Dallas offense. If the Mavericks decide to move on from him, Hardaway Jr. will not be easy to replace.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is better than most of the free agent class
While this has nothing to do with Hardaway Jr., this year’s NBA free-agent class is weaker than most. Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard and Mike Conley headline the 2021 free agency class, but all three will most likely stay with their current teams.
The most realistic headline free agent for Dallas is DeMar DeRozan, who would be nice in Dallas, but probably not worth the maximum contract required to sign him. The other options would be players like Victor Oladipo and Goran Dragic, both coming off bad seasons and have injury concerns. Signing Tim Hardaway Jr. for the same contract he had this season would be a much better move.
Even if someone like Leonard decides to come to Dallas, the Mavericks’ front office should get creative with the salary cap. As the Miami Heat demonstrated when they signed Jimmy Butler, there are many ways to create cap space and sign and trades are always an option. If Dallas found trades for Richardson and Maxi Kleber, it could create enough space to sign Hardaway Jr. and a top free agent. A starting five of Doncic, Hardaway Jr., Leonard, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Porzingis would make Dallas true title contenders.
This offseason has been wild for the Mavericks. But in the midst all of the change, Dallas must make re-signing Tim Hardaway Jr. a priority.