The unique course that is Tim Hardaway Jr.’s NBA career is at a crossroad. He’s been a bonafide veteran with the proven scoring ability for multiple NBA bottom feeders.
Upon his arrival, many MFFL’s likened him to Wesley Matthews. Who most would agree is the embodiment of an unconscious shooter. This level of confidence is established by an undeniable talent level and fostered through hard work. This season THJ has overcome a slow start to become one of the most consistent Mavericks.
So can we finally kick him out of the MFFL dog house?
Tim has overcome an early bout with inconsistency to secure a starting role with the Mavs. Currently, the team’s third-leading scorer with 13.9 points per game while shooting 38.6% from three. In the first three games of the year, he shot a meager 2 – 17 from long range. Making just 28% (or worse) from the field in each contest. Early on he was downright awful creating a negative narrative that has been difficult to dispel. It’s been an uphill battle but THJ has undoubtedly earned his starting role.
In late December he acknowledged Rick Carlisle has positively impacted his shot helping end his early struggles. Chuck Cooperstein tweeted about the exchange here:
Hardaway spoke afterward about how Carlisle worked with him individually on his shot to make some small correction that obviously worked. It’s an incredible quality that RC has. Very few HCs spend that time leaving it to development coaches. He goes the extra mile
— Chuck Cooperstein (@coopmavs) December 21, 2019
NBA head coaches rarely assist with player development. Typically they tailor their focus to x’s & o’s. So if and when the former player and championship coach gives his perspective. It’s for good reason. When fully staffed the Mavericks spacing and all-around offensive efficiency is bar-none. Tim is a huge cog in this machine. Luka, KP, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Tim are the Mav’s most-used lineup logging the most minutes as a unit. They have powered the squad to the leagues best offensive rating (117.1) and a third-place finish in points per game (116.3).
At this point, there is no question about who is the team’s starting shooting guard. Hardaway Jr. has proven he is capable of executing the given role. In fact, since taking over the position (game 14), Tim’s reached double figures in every game (21) except six. Production like this helps change the negative perception floating among some fans. THJ may have very well played himself OFF the trade block.
Don’t forget prior to arriving in Dallas the former Knicks guard rarely saw a shot he didn’t like. Last season there were ten games in which he hoisted 20+ field goal attempts however he’s only reached that mark twice since joining the Mavericks (including last season). Obviously, Luka and Kristaps are major reasons for the 4-5 shot decrease per game. Tim clearly needed time to adjust to these missing shot attempts so his inconsistent start was understandable in hindsight.
As of late Tim has been a model of consistency scoring double figures in the last ten games (17.9 ppg). A hamstring injury versus the Lakers and the subsequent three games withstanding. In a 19 point win against the 76ers Hardaway Jr. led the team with 27 points while shooting 7-11 from three. Mind you Luka was out this match with an ankle injury. So every bucket was most definitely needed.
Scoring has never been an issue for the former Michigan guard but producing for a contender is a first. It has been interesting to watch THJ morph into a more efficient version of himself.
The Mavs have asked him to produce all the while acknowledging a decrease in touches. Since his acquisition the possibility of being traded has steadily declined because of his production. Tim’s remained professional and dare I say improved his game since becoming a Maverick. Although his points per game have decreased he’s shooting the best eFG – effective field goal percentage (.540%) and three point field goal percentage (.386%) of his career. Outstanding numbers for a player in his eighth season.
The Mavericks have a way of revitalizing careers and THJ is the latest example of just how proficient they are at this skill. Although nuanced his improvement can’t be denied and it warrants a change in perspective.
He’s earned it!
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