the NBA trade deadline Exactly one month later, it is scheduled to pass on February 9th at 2:00 PM CST. As expected, the Dallas MavericksRumors are starting to circulate, and while the Mavs don’t have an abundance of highly sought after business assets, one name that seems to have popped up in discussions about the league is Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway is in his 10th season in the NBA – which seems odd for writing – and is worth just over $34 million over the next two years. His career with Dallas has been a bit like a roller coaster, from a hypothetical afterthought in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, to the ace shooter under Rick Carlisle that landed him another big contract, to what we’ve seen in the last season or so: an extremely veiny shot-maker who couldn’t Hands down on the menu when it’s hot and costly an albatross when it’s not.
Both Chris Vidor And Mark Stein, the Mavericks are open to transferring Hardaway, and the only team that might be interested is Cleveland, who should bring back Caris LeVert in a direct swap. LeVert, like Hardaway, is a wing scorer with a proven track record, as well as a roughly similar salary. There are some small differences between the two, which may make this trade worthwhile for Dallas.
First off, LeVert is an expired contract. Now, the freed up money wouldn’t be enough to, say, sign a max player this summer, but it would make Christian Wood’s potential re-signing more feasible, among other things. Second, while LeVert isn’t someone you’d want to take over as the primary tackler anytime soon, he does offer more playmaking/creativity than Tim, without sacrificing a massive amount as an instant shooter (about 37% this season in catch and shoot 3’s), and are nearly identical in drawdowns). Finally, while Levert’s efforts have been waned at some points throughout his career, his defensive reputation more deservedly deserves that of Hardaway, who wasn’t a particularly solid defender and thus wasn’t really an ideal companion to Luka.
This does not mean that trading Hardaway for LeVert will be risk free. While his overall numbers this season aren’t terribly impressive, Hardaway’s production has been crucial to keeping Dallas afloat as they deal with injuries. After a dreadful October/November, Hardaway came alive in December, hitting nearly 40% of his three-point total and averaging 17 points per game, all while being lifted off the bench and into the starting lineup. In four games in January, he brought his three-point percentage to 45.5%, and there were several games in which we can confidently say Dallas would not have won without him on the floor.
Meanwhile, if Dallas acquires LeVert, it will be the third consecutive season that Caris has been traded at or near the deadline. He’s dealt with injuries throughout his seven-year NBA career (and missed significant time in college at Michigan, too), which has diminished some of the promise he once showed. LeVert can also be a little dominant on the ball at times, which makes him a little redundant in Cleveland. The Mavs don’t have many players around Luka Doncic who can drive to the basket or create a quality look off the dribble, but how LeVert can fit perfectly into the team’s concept.
How likely is this commercial rumor to bear fruit? With all the Mafs rumors, my default situation is “unlikely”, but it’s notable that both Vidor and Mark Stein have commented on it (Vidor did that on Jake Fisher’s “Please Don’t Assemble This” show is funny). My personal relationship as a Tim Hardaway Jr. fan has been an odd one, and for as long as I’ve considered the team transitioning from him to find a clearer alignment with Luca, it would be weird to actually see that go. Will LeVert really be an improvement, and/or do you consider his money expired given that the team probably won’t be a major player in the free agent market this coming summer? In a month (at the latest), we’ll know if these are questions worth pursuing.