The Dallas Mavericks’ offseason came earlier than anticipated when the Los Angeles Clippers knocked them out of the playoffs after an exciting seven-game series. While the exit from the first round of the playoffs is disappointing for the organization, there is a lot of work ahead.
Dallas faces some tough decisions this summer. These focus primarily on staff decisions, although there are rumors of a possible head office reorganization. A total of five players will enter restricted or unrestricted free agency beginning in August. Of these, Tim Hardaway Jr. proved invaluable to the Mavericks’ success this season. Rehiring him should be a top priority for Dallas’ top brass, but it won’t be cheap.
Hardaway enters unrestricted free agency after completing a four-year, $ 71 million contract he signed with the New York Knicks in July 2017. The Mavericks traded him, along with Kristaps Porzingis, Trey Burke and Courtney Lee, in January 2019. He opted in the final season of the contract last summer and earned $ 18.9 million this season, which also turned out to be the most productive of his career.
Appearing in 70 regular-season games, including 31 starts, Hardaway averaged 16.6 points while shooting 44.7% from the field and 39.1% from 3s this year. He also had 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. In early February, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle asked him to come off the bench to reinforce the second unit. Hardaway played well in a backup role, averaging 15.1 points, and made a strong case for the Sixth Man of the Year, who ranked fourth in the vote.
He returned to a permanent starting role in early May when the Mavericks made their advancement in the playoffs and competed for the seed. Against the Clippers in the first round, Hardaway averaged 17 points on 41.6% shooting overall and 40.4% from deep. It is as a headline that he sees himself excelling and where he wants to go forward.
“If I were to look back on the season, starting, that’s where I feel most comfortable,” says Hardaway. “I think I have shown that this year, throughout the year, and that is what I am going to try and hope for in the near future. I feel like I made my niche as a starting guard, small forward, whatever they put me on the list, I don’t know, but I think I created that niche where I’m a starter. ”
Hardaway’s numbers are like that of the Sixth Man of the Year that Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz, whom he already beats. Since you see yourself as a holder, it means that you also want to be paid as such. Perhaps the best comparison of what Hardaway’s future contract might look like is that of Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers. Brogdon signed a four-year, $ 85 million deal with Indiana in July 2019.
Such a deal would keep Hardaway the second-highest-paid player on the list next season, behind Porzingis, who will earn $ 31.6 million. However, it will fall to third place in earnings for the 2022-23 season when Luka Doncic’s extension begins. Doncic is expected to sign a super maximum five-year rookie scale extension this summer worth about $ 200 million. These three players could form the core of the Mavericks roster, and the team’s cap space, for years to come.
“[He’s] he fits in very well with Luka and Kristaps, ”Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson says of Hardaway. “He and Kristaps have a great relationship that goes back to New York. I think there is some real chemistry between those three. We are obviously looking forward to the right time to sit down with his representation. ”
For his part, Hardaway says he hasn’t given much thought to his pending free agency. He’s taking time to reflect on the season, relax, and stop thinking about basketball for a bit. When August 2 rolls around, the day teams can begin negotiations with free agents, he will likely have multiple suitors from across the league. For now, though, he says Dallas feels like home.
“If you were to talk to someone from this organization, everyone around me every day, all the time, they would definitely say that I love it here,” says Hardaway. “Regardless of whether I was coming from banking or just starting out, I really felt like this was my home, and I really felt like I had carved a niche for myself here to be a part of something bigger, bigger than myself. “