The Dallas Mavericks' wonderful playoff run ended in the cruelest of circumstances. Making the NBA Finals is an achievement in its own right, but it's never fun to lose it. That's what happened to Dallas, who fell at the hands of the Boston Celtics in five games. But, a few trades and moves in the summer could see them catch up to Boston. One way the Mavericks could do so would be to find a trade for Tim Hardaway Jr. during the 2024 NBA offseason.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is out of the rotation

Tim Hardaway Jr. has had a fine stint with the Mavericks over the last five and half seasons. He has had his moments as a scoring and shooting gunner off the bench. THJ has averaged at least 14.2 points per game in every season he's been in Dallas and was on sixth man of the year ballots in 2021 and 2024. He showed what he's capable of in garbage time of Game 4 of the Finals.

The key two words in that last sentence were garbage time. Hardaway Jr. was in and out of Dallas' rotation in the playoffs. He didn't do much to help them out when he was on the floor for meaningful minutes. The Mavericks had a -16.5 net rating when he was on the floor in non-garbage time action, according to Cleaning the Glass.

Hardly any of those came during the NBA Finals against Boston. Of the 48 minutes he played in Dallas' series against the Celtics, 29 of them came in mop-up duty of blowouts by Boston. The only 19 that weren't was in Game 3. Hardaway was 0-5 from the field for zero points and had a plus/minus of -16. Dallas lost that game by seven points.

Jaden Hardy and Dante Exum both took turns replacing Hardaway Jr. in the Mavericks' rotation during the playoffs. While neither players' contracts are guaranteed for next season, they would combine to make roughly $5.2 million if Dallas retained them. Hardaway Jr. being out of the rotation makes it more likely he's the odd man out between those three.

Mavericks can save money

Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) shoots over Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) during the second half during game four of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Not only does it make sense from a basketball perspective to move on from Hardaway Jr., it also does on the financial front. Hardaway Jr. is entering the final year of his contract and is poised to earn just over $16 million. As mentioned earlier, Hardy and Exum are making less than a third of that figure combined.

Not only are those two cheaper alternatives, but trading the veteran guard this NBA offseason may be necessary to retain a different Maverick. Derrick Jones Jr. was an outstanding signing on the minimum for Dallas last offseason. The issue for the Mavericks was that he was too good of a signing. He earned a raise with his play.

The Mavericks can give him a full non-tax mid-level exception (which will slot just under $13 million this year), but they have to free up money first. They are currently over the luxury tax with a payroll of $171.9 million. The first apron luxury tax threshold is $165 million. With Dallas over that mark, they can't give Jones Jr., a starter all year, the full non-tax midlevel without shedding money first.

The easiest way for the Mavericks to clear that money would be to trade Hardaway Jr. His cap number is lofty for a role player, which could complicate trade talks. But a team at the bottom of the NBA won't mind eating that since his contract expires after this season.

Tim Hardaway Jr. had a good run for Dallas over the last half decade, but it seems as if this pairing has run its course. He wasn't a factor for them in their run to the Finals and shedding his salary would be more beneficial for the Mavericks than keeping him. Look for Hardaway Jr. trade at some point during the 2024 NBA offseason.