When the Dallas Mavericks acquired Kristaps Porzingis from the New York Knicks in 2019, Tim Hardaway Jr was basically seen as an afterthought in the blockbuster deal. However, he’s developed into arguably a more important player to the Mavs than Porzingis.
Hardaway Jr is set to hit free agency this summer as his current four-year, $80 million deal expires that he signed with the Knicks in 2017. While at the time a lot of people criticized New York for giving the guard such an absurd amount of money, he’s living up to the hype this season. The Mavs have no choice but to pay the man.
There’s already been mutual interest between the two parties in regards to signing a long-term extension this summer. Hardaway Jr is helping his case immensely in these playoffs. The 29-year-old has been the Mavs’ second-best player to Luka Doncic against the Clippers as they prepare for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday. The former Knick is averaging 18 points per night through six appearances while shooting an impressive 46% from downtown.
With Porzingis’ production having drastically diminished in the series, Hardaway has been that complementary scorer to Luka that Dallas has desperately needed. He’s dropped 20+ in four of the six contests, including a 28-point performance in Game 2. The former Michigan standout has knocked down some very timely shots for the Mavs as well. He hasn’t backed down from the big stage at any moment.
Dallas has put up a real fight in this first-round matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Clips and they’re on the brink of an upset. While Doncic is the catalyst and the star of the show, Hardaway Jr has been the most important role player for Rick Carlisle not named Doncic. While his 16.6 points during the regular season weren’t a career-high, he did post a career-best 39% clip from deep. Three-point shooting is a huge part of the Mavs’ offense and Hardaway has been a key contributor.
Sure, he’s proving his worth on the court. But Hardaway also brings an infectious energy to the Mavs’ rotation, whether he’s in the starting lineup or coming off the bench. The Dallas guard is the type of player that fans love because of his attitude and winning mentality. Whatever Carlisle hands Hardaway Jr, he makes the most of it. That’s exactly why he is so valuable to this Dallas team.
$18 million per year may seem like a lot of money to pay a guy who isn’t even averaging 20 per game. When Hardaway Jr arrived in Dallas, there were no guarantees that he would be around for even this long. But across the last 2.5 years, he has grown as a player while fitting perfectly into the Mavs’ system.
There has been no better time for Hardaway Jr to make his case for a hefty extension than in the heat of the postseason. Whether the Mavs advance to the second round or not, he’s made a loud statement. Tim Hardaway Jr needs to be around for the foreseeable future. He is the perfect piece of the winning culture in Dallas.