Exclusive: Mavs and Hardaway Jr. Have Mutual Interest in Long-Term Extension
Tim Hardaway Jr., who was formally characterized by some as being the "ballast'' from the Kristaps Porzingis trade, hasn’t just been ‘good’ for the Dallas Mavericks; he’s been ‘elite,’ at least in terms of his three-point shooting and being a fantastic locker room leader.
In 55 games for the Mavs this season, Hardaway Jr. is averaging 15 points per game on 44-percent shooting from the field and a career-high 41-percent from beyond the arc on nearly seven attempts from deep per game. That’s a five-percent jump from Hardaway Jr.’s previous career-high, which was way back in his rookie season.
“I would be lying if (I said) I thought he would be this good,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban tells DallasBasketball.com, indicating to us a mutual interest in a long-term contract being forged this summer.
To add a little more context to just how good Hardaway Jr. has been, there have only been 16 players in the league to attempt at least 380 three-pointers this season. Of those players, only three of them have a higher three-point percentage than Hardaway Jr. — Davis Bertans, Bojan Bogdanovic and Duncan Robinson.
After the trade last season, we wrote about how Hardaway Jr.’s shooting percentages would more-than-likely rise with the Mavs, given that Luka Doncic was, by far, the best point guard he would have played with in his career so far. It was also noted that Hardaway Jr. would he getting a lot more open threes than what he was accustomed to, and that he wouldn’t have to isolate as much either.
Sure enough, playing with Doncic and being coached by Rick Carlisle has made a huge difference. Last season, Hardaway Jr. shot just 32-percent on catch-and-shoot threes at a 29-percent frequency. This season, he’s shooting 44-percent on catch-and-shoot threes at a 40-percent frequency. The talent was always there for Hardaway Jr. He just simply had to tweak the way he was playing the game.
Hardaway Jr.’s numbers, combined with the fact that he’s been the ‘heart and soul’ of this Mavs’ team with his infectious passion and energy, led us to believe that there could be mutual interest in a potential extension in play for him in the near future — and it appears that both Cuban and Hardaway Jr. agree with that assessment.
“THJ has turned into an elite shooter. He makes us so much better,” said Cuban when asked about the possibility of a Hardaway Jr. extension this summer. “Obviously we can see him being around for a long time, and I know he wants to stay.”
A step in this process is for us attempt to pinpoint what the ‘right’ extension for Hardaway Jr. would look like (we discussed this particular topic at length on this week’s episode of the Mavs Step Back Podcast), which something we did at DBcom last summer regarding Dwight Powell.
Hardaway Jr. started his Mavs tenure being viewed as a salary-cap burden, but he has more than lived up to his $18 million per year contract this season, making the Mavs trade with the Knicks look like even more of a steal. (Hardaway has a $19 mil option for 2020-21.) Now, not only do the Mavs have an elite shooter to pair with Doncic and Porzingis, but they could also have themselves another key piece to a potential championship roster one day, a glue guy, an ‘our kind of guy,’ as general manager Donnie Nelson would put it.
Obviously, the next step will be the Mavs and Hardaway Jr. hashing out the numbers after this season is over, but for now, it’s looking like Hardaway Jr. could be sticking around Dallas for a long time — something that would be mutually beneficial for both sides going forward.