The Mavericks have had a fairly disappointing start to this season, but Tim Hardaway Jr. has been quite a bright spot.

His play of late should put him into the 6th Man of the Year conversation, yet for some reason, he still does not seem to get enough credit, especially from Mavs fans.

It is time to recognize that he is important to this team’s success.

How important, you might ask? I will show you.

For the season, Tim Hardaway Jr. is averaging 17.1 PPG on 44.7/40.5 shooting numbers. While those numbers are impressive, it gets better. Recently, Rick Carlisle has decided to bring Hardaway Jr. off the bench, and it seems to be working for both parties.

As a sixth man, he is averaging 18.2 PPG on 48.6/47.3 shooting splits, while he is averaging 16.4 PPG on 42/36 shooting splits as a starter. There is a significant difference there. His three-point percentage has climbed 11.3% since that lineup change.

Here are some of his most impressive games as a reserve:

  • 29 points, 64/64
  • 24 points, 60/44
  • 22 points, 53/50
  • 30 points, 79/80

He also had a 36 point, 62/66 shooting night in which he started, but I felt like that needed to be included as well.

Coincidentally, Dallas won all five of those games. When THJ comes off the bench, the Mavericks are 9-4. Carlisle has continued to talk about how huge Hardaway is off the bench. He also talks about how professional it is of Hardaway to embrace his role off the bench. Most players in the league want to be starting.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is good enough to start for the Mavs, but he recognizes that his coming off the bench benefits the team in a big way.

“That’s what I’m here for, that’s what I want to do, and that’s what I want to be a part of, a winning team, of a winning culture…whatever it takes.”

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Let’s look at another important stat…wins, and losses. In wins, Hardaway Jr. is averaging 20.1 PPG on 50.3/47 shooting numbers, while in losses, he is only averaging 14.1 PPG on 38.5/33 shooting numbers. Again, that is another huge difference. And yes, I get it. Sometimes THJ can be extremely frustrating. He takes a lot of shots, and when they do not drop, they seem like bad shots. But the way that Tim finds his rhythm is by shooting the ball. He has to shoot to score.

When he scores more than 20 points, the Mavericks are 6-1.

When he scores between 16-19 points, the Mavericks are 5-6. When he scores 15 or less, the Mavericks are a pitiful 3-8. So basically, all of that is to say be patient with the “bad” shots because chances are, makes are coming. I think of the Hawks game where Dallas was trailing in the second half until they started finding Hardaway Jr. He started hitting shots and brought the team back into the game. Many of those shots that he hit were set plays run by the team to get him good, open looks. We have seen that a lot lately.

Coincidentally, we have also been winning more games lately.

The Mavericks ended January on a miserable six-game losing streak and are now 6-3 in February. Curious about Tim’s numbers in those two months? In January, he averaged 17.5 PPG on 43/38 shooting. In February, he has averaged 17.7 PPG on 47/44 shooting. His three-point percentage has increased six percent between the two months.

I know I listed off a ton of stats, but it is much simpler than that. Try the eye test. You can tell that when he is on the court, the team is better. And if you do not like the eye test, here is one more stat.

When THJ is on the court, the team’s offensive rating goes up 3.3 points. He has become a guy that you expect to hit shots.

When the team seems to be out of the game, try getting Tim the ball first before giving up. He has the rare ability to completely resurrect the energy of the team when they are down.
That is a quality that every team needs.

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