Underlying factor plagues Mavericks' chances in NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Dallas Mavericks, Tim Hardaway Jr. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Dallas Mavericks seemingly doing the improbable over the last few months by making it to the NBA Finals through an electrifying playoff run spearheaded by Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the Mavericks find themselves down 2-0 to the Boston Celtics on the NBA's most prestigious stage.

There have been a variety of reasons as to why Dallas hasn't been able to reciprocate the electrifying offense we've seen from them in this postseason against the Celtics in these Finals, but Dallas' lack of offensive creation outside of Luka Doncic has been the most prevalent one.

Kyrie Irving likely sheds the most blame for this out of anyone on this Mavericks' roster since the Finals have kicked off, as the Celtics' stout and lengthy defense has forced Irving into some pedestrian turnovers and has oftentimes forced him into contested midrange jump shots as well.

Tim Hardaway Jr. being unplayable has plagued Mavericks' chances in NBA Finals

While Irving's efficiency woes have hurt Dallas in these Finals, it's not fair to project all of the blame on Irving for Dallas' inability to create good looks on offense, as the Mavericks haven't even had a tried and true third scorer or ball handler throughout these playoffs. Mavericks sophomore guard Jaden Hardy has exhibited that he can assume some of those duties when granted the opportunity, but Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd has been reluctant to trust the 21-year-old for more elongated stretches within these playoffs.

While the Mavericks have been able to overcome their lack of a third offensive initiator throughout the entirety of the playoffs, it seems like their luck may be finally running out against this extremely wiry and physical Boston defense. This especially stings when one considers that Tim Hardaway Jr. was in contention to potentially win the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award at one point earlier this season for Dallas, as Hardaway Jr. averaged 19.2 points per game on 44.5/38.1/88.0 shooting splits during the month of January.

Hardaway Jr. arguably flashed the most diversification on offense that we've seen from since being in a Mavericks uniform when he was in Dallas' rotation earlier in the year, as he displayed a steady shot diet of 3-pointers, dribble-drive attempts, as well as the ability to work the in-between game. He also even looked like an improved playmaker and defender at times, showcasing that he could've been the type of player that Dallas needed to get over the hump in a championship series where there is already so much attention directed on Irving and Doncic.

Hardaway Jr.'s play and shooting efficiency drastically declined after January though, and he hasn't even looked like the same player in these playoffs since suffering a right ankle sprain in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals versus the LA Clippers. Hardaway Jr. has fallen out of Dallas' rotation in these playoffs almost completely at this point, as he only clocked eight minutes in Game 1 against Boston and has gotten a DNP-CD in four out of Dallas' last five playoff contests.

Hardaway Jr. hasn't been able to prove that he can get back to the level he was at earlier this regular season throughout these playoffs, appointing himself as a prime candidate to potentially get moved this summer by the Mavericks via trade if they wish to upgrade their roster. When you take into consideration that Hardaway Jr. will be on a $16 million expiring contract heading into next season and the Mavericks will be doing anything they can to improve their roster if they fall just short of the NBA's ultimate goal, don't be surprised if Hardaway Jr. is sporting a different uniform next fall unless he can turn things around in these Finals.

For more on Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Dallas Mavericks during the 2024 NBA Finals, stay tuned as we will have you covered.