5 Players who must step up if Mavericks want to make the NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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4. Tim Hardaway Jr.

Coming off of a sprained ankle suffered in Game 2 of the first round versus the LA Clippers, it was unknown how much of an impact Tim Hardaway Jr. was going to have on Dallas' success in their second-round matchup versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. Hardaway Jr. was still trusted to assume a role off the bench by head coach Jason Kidd, as the Mavericks could theoretically desperately use Hardaway Jr.'s shooting off the bench with how up-and-down the 3-point shooting has been from Dallas' bench in these playoffs.

However, outside of a Game 2 in OKC where he shot 6-10 from the field, Hardaway Jr. had minimal impact on the Mavericks' series victory over the Thunder. Hardaway Jr. averaged just 6.7 points per game off of 41.7/33.3/75.0 shooting splits in the Western Conference Semifinals, averaging only 15.5 minutes per game throughout the series.

Hardaway Jr. has the opportunity to become the spark plug the Mavericks need against this rigid Minnesota defense, as the Mavericks offense is far more dynamic when Hardaway Jr. is shooting well from the 3-point line and mid-range. It may seem like a far fetch for Hardaway Jr. to turn around his offensive play this late in the season against the best defenses in the league on a game-by-game basis though, as he's practically been in a shooting slump for his standards since January.

One underlying trend in Dallas' second-round series versus the Thunder was Hardaway Jr. playing well on defense from both an individual and team perspective, so hopefully he can reciprocate that against the Timberwolves, as it makes his sluggish offensive performances far more manageable.

While the threat of Hardaway Jr. as a shooter may be too essential to Dallas' offense to not get him some minutes, another poor shooting series may force the Mavericks to diminish Hardaway Jr.'s role even further (subscription required) in these playoffs, so hopefully he steps up to become the sixth-man off the bench that Dallas needs to make the NBA Finals.