Mavericks sharpshooter set to return against Thunder following injury

Dallas Mavericks, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Dallas Mavericks, Tim Hardaway Jr. / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

The Dallas Mavericks are set to face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs. The team went 1-3 this season against the Thunder, as their only win came on February 10. However, the three losses should not be taken for granted.

Dallas' first loss came early in the season when Dallas was without Kyrie Irving. Their second loss came in a game in which Luka Doncic was out. The third defeat was towards the end of the year when Dallas sat out most of their players.

Regardless, things will be different this time around. For starters, the Mavs have a rejuvenated Doncic and Irving, who are playing at a high level. The team also found their coach of the future, when they re-signed coach Jason Kidd to a multi-year contract extension. This shuts down rumors of Kidd going to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Tim Hardaway Jr. set to return against Thunder following injury

The biggest difference though, will be the return of Tim Hardaway Jr. The Mavs' shooting guard missed the series' last four games with a right ankle sprain. He was set to return sooner, but reinjured himself in practice, right before Game 5.

Hardaway Jr.'s return comes at the perfect time though, as Dallas lost Maxi Kleber. Kleber dislocated his right shoulder after colliding with Amir Coffey in Game 6.

Kleber's production though has the potential to be replaced with the return of Hardaway Jr. when it comes to shooting. The Mavs' sixth man struggled to get things going against the LA Clippers, as he shot 33.3 percent in the series.

However, it's possible he could return to his old shooting ways. Hardaway Jr. shot 40.2 percent this season, knocking down 35.3 percent of his attempts from the 3-point line.

His best performance came at the start of the new year. He averaged 19.2 points per game in January while hitting 44.5 percent of his shots.

Hardaway Jr. was in a shooting slump for a majority of the second half of the season, but he has a good chance of returning to his old shooting ways if he plays his game.

So, if the Mavs' shooting guard can get out of his shooting slump, he can replace Kleber's production in the playoffs. His production will be key if Dallas hopes to surpass the second round. The team has struggled to find a third-person shooter.

Could Hardaway Jr. become that guy?

It's a strong possibility. The Mavs' guard will need to overcome his shooting slump and replicate his numbers back in January. His health will be crucial to getting the team's offense going.

So, look for Hardaway Jr. to return in full force and help the Mavs get past the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Stay tuned, for all the latest on Jason Kidd and his plan to possibly utilize Hardaway Jr. against the Thunder.