What's Hardaway's Future With The Mavs?

Dalton Trigg

Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Mavs, together? Yes. Still.

On Friday, current Dallas Mavericks starting shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. joined 105.3 The Fan's 'K&C Masterpiece' to talk about a variety of topics, including this upcoming free agency period. Hardaway Jr. has a player option for next season that's worth nearly $19 million. He could, however, decide to opt out of the last year of his deal in order to seek long-term financial security this offseason. 

No matter what Hardaway Jr. decides to do, all signs, from both him and the Mavericks front office, seem to point to him sticking around Dallas for a long time.

"The goal for me, yes, is to return as a Dallas Maverick. That's the goal," said Hardaway Jr. "Everybody knows how much I love Dallas. How much I want to be a part of the organization. How much I've built those relationships with those guys and people around the community. Yes, that is the plan. And hopefully the plan goes accordingly. I just have to talk to my agent and let him figure it all out. We will have that answer when the time comes, but you guys know where my heart is at."

These comments from Hardaway Jr. reiterate what Mavs owner Mark Cuban told DallasBasketball.com towards the end of February, just a few weeks before the NBA season was abruptly brought to a halt by the pandemic.

“I would be lying if (I said) I thought he would be this good,” said Cuban of Hardaway Jr., who finished his first full season with the Mavs averaging 16 points, three rebounds and two assists per game while shooting a career-high 40% from the three-point line. 

For context, Hardaway Jr.'s previous career-high for three-point shooting was 36-percent during his rookie season with the New York Knicks back in 2014. Although Hardaway Jr. has to be credited for putting in the work to improve his game, his large uptick in efficiency undoubtably has a little bit to do with playing alongside 21-year-old superstar Luka Doncic. When Hardaway Jr. was traded to the Mavs in 2019, we immediately wrote about how Doncic was already the best point guard he would play with to this point in his career, and that his numbers would prove that theory to be right.

“THJ has turned into an elite shooter. He makes us so much better,” said Cuban when asked about the possibility of an extension this summer. “Obviously we can see him being around for a long time, and I know he wants to stay.”

Without a doubt, there is mutual interest between Hardaway Jr. and the Mavs to get a long-term deal done, but as we've learned over the years, a deal isn't done until pen meets paper. How much money will Hardaway Jr. want? Is he willing to take a lesser amount annually to secure a greater guaranteed amount in the long run like Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart did (Smart makes $13 million per year)? 

And the biggie: If Hardaway Jr. opts in, who's to say that Dallas, despite the admiration for Hardaway Jr. on and off the court, might not end up trading him if an opportunity to upgrade at the shooting guard presents itself? 

Even if Hardaway Jr. opts in and the Mavs don't trade him, that creates a little bit easier path to chasing Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021, if he makes it to free agency, that is.

READ MORE: Mavs 'First In Line for Giannis'

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All of these questions need to be considered before the Mavs and Hardaway Jr. come to any sort of resolution, but for now, both sides are still on the same page and want to make this work long-term. With the NBA Draft exactly one month away, free agency and trade rumors will start to surface more frequently as we inch closer, as well as reports of whether or not players will opt-in or opt-out of their contracts. Stay tuned to DallasBasketball.com for updates on the Hardaway Jr. situation as it develops.