Following an embarrassing sweep by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Miami Heat are laser-focused on how to successfully rebuild for next season.
The Heat have already been linked to numerous possible free agents, but a name that continues to pop up as a top target for Miami is Dallas Mavericks’ Tim Hardaway Jr., whose father, Tim Hardaway Sr., was a huge star for the franchise between 1996 and 2001.
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The Heat retired the five-time All-Star’s No. 10 jersey in 2009, and according to Bleacher Report‘s Eric Pincus, Miami should prepare to start making Hardaway Jr.’s No. 11 jersey for next season.
“Hardaway’s outside shooting was massive for the Mavericks, but the team needs to improve to advance deeper into the playoffs,” Pincus wrote. “ The 29-year-old veteran shot 39.1% from three-point range over the regular season and 40.4 percent through seven playoff games.
While Hardaway “has excellent chemistry with Dallas star Luka Doncic, which should prompt the team to keep him in the fold,” the 6-foot-6 established himself as one of the best shot-makers this season and is due for a massive pay raise.
“Hardaway earned almost $19 million last season,” Pincus continued. “He could get a raise if other teams try to pluck him from the Mavericks. If not, perhaps he returns for a slight discount in the first year of a new, long-term deal.”
If Dallas isn’t able to pony up the cash, as the Mavericks are expected to offer Doncic a supermax contract extension in the $200 million range this summer, Pincus listed the Heat as a “theoretical destination” for the guard. As it stands right now, Miami have the cap space to take on Hardaway’s expected $15 to $20 million starting salary.
Bleacher Report First Linked Hardaway Jr. to the Heat in May
On May 18, Bleacher Report‘s Jake Fischer named the Heat as one of the top teams to steal “Sixth Man of the Year” candidate away from the Mavericks during the offseason.
Fischer’s listed the Michigan alum as one of the “under-the-radar” free agenst players expected to get a huge payday, noting how the Heat have “the ability to clear upward of $20-plus million in cap space come August.”
“Only so many players can take up so much cap room,” one veteran cap expert told Bleacher Report. “And some guys are going to get left out. But there will be a few guys who get big numbers that make your eyes pop.” And Hardaway, 29, is one of those players.
Fischer pointed out the guard is “finishing his second straight campaign above 39% shooting from deep– nearly 5 percentage points above likely 6MOY Jordan Clarkson — right in time for free agency.”
“He’s one of the best pure scorers in the league,” a personnel evaluator told Bleacher Report. “He can just move the scoreboard when he gets into the game. I think Dallas is using him in the role that most high-level teams would want to use him, the way that Utah’s weaponized Clarkson off the bench. He could start for a lot of teams, but because he’s a high-usage guy, he’s better off the bench.”
Hardaway Sr. Also Played for the Mavericks
After departing from the Heat, Hardaway Sr. played for his son’s current team during the 2001-02 season. During his 14 season NBA career, he averaged 17.7 points and 8.2 assists per game. He scored a total of 15,373 points.
While Hardaway Sr. was a candidate to be inducted to the Hall of Fame this past year, he ultimately didn’t make the cut. The oversight didn’t sit well former New Orleans’ Pelicans head coach Steve Van Gundy, who worked as the Heat’s assistant coach during Hardaway Sr.’s tenure in South Beach.
“I’m more focused on the Hall of Fame with the disappointment again of Tim Hardaway Sr. not getting in,” Van Gundy said in March 2021. “That to me just makes no sense. It’ll never make sense to me. I know the numbers and the awards and everything on some of the other guards that are in there. It’s a huge disappointment and it’s hugely ridiculous that the voters are overlooking him.”