Tim Hardaway Jr. was not in most Dallas Mavericks fans' good books coming into the season, and he was largely being discussed as a potential trade piece so we could make some upgrades. But he's totally redeemed himself.
Hardaway has accepted a bench role as the team's 6th man, and he's absolutely thriving. Now, brimming with confidence, Hardaway is even comparing himself to a couple legends of the game.
In an interview with Mavs.com, Hardaway opened up about embracing this role off the bench, and he was quick to highlight a couple of all-time greats as his inspiration and guys he's trying to emulate in giving the role his all.
"J-Cross [Jamal Crawford] ... I’ve definitely watched and seen his career unfold. It’s magical. He (took) that role very serious ... I said before, first and foremost, in order for you to know that you’re going in that role, you have to embrace it and accept it. That’s what he did. That’s what Lou-Will did. That’s what J.R. Smith did. And that’s what I’m trying to do is have that same mentality."- Tim Hardaway Jr.
Crawford and Williams are the only three-time 6th Man of the Year award winners in NBA history. They won the award a combined six times in a 10-year stretch. They are the quintissential 6th men. Nobody ever questioned how much they were contributing to their teams off the bench, and nobody thought that those guys needed to be in the starting lineup to be true difference-makers.
So far Hardaway is having a lot of success channeling those role models. His 17.5 points per game are up from the 15.5 he’s averaged for his Mavs career, even though his 27.8 minutes per game are his fewest in any season since he was with the Atlanta Hawks in the 2016-17 season.
His scoring efficiency is up (55.9% effective field goal percentage, compared to 49.1% and 52.7% the last two years) and his turnover rate is down (5.5% — the lowest of his career) while his 23.7% usage rate is the highest it’s been since 2019.
And it's not all about individual performance either. He's played a crucial role in lifting the Mavs to a 10-5 start to the season, sitting No. 4 in the Western Conference.
It's a little early to start putting Hardaway in the same conversation as potential Hall of Famers like J-Cross and Lou Will, but emulating those guys has the potential to totally tranform his career.
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