Free-agent guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is reportedly looking to follow in his father’s footsteps by wanting to be the second family member to play for the Miami Heat. Greg Sylvander of Five Reasons Sports stated on June 29th that Hardaway would love to play for Miami next season.
But does Hardaway make sense for the Miami Heat? The answer is: yes but as a last resort. Head coach, Erik Spoelstra, would likely use Hardaway as a floor spacer because the team primarily runs an offense centered around dribble hand-offs and pick and rolls. Miami was second in the league during the regular season in hand-off possessions, averaging 8.3 per game.
Let’s take a look at whether free-agent guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has the skill set to excel in the Miami Heat offensive system.
They gave 42.2 percent of the hand-offs to Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson as they combined to average 3.5 per game. On the other hand, the Heat were 22nd in pick and rolls, averaging 17.9 per game. Spoelstra gave 36.9 percent of the pick and rolls to Jimmy Butler as he averaged 6.6 per game.
The Miami Heat’s offense structure forced most of the players to have to be floor spacers. For instance, starting point guard, Kendrick Nunn, took 48.6 percent of his shots from behind the arc, averaging 5.7 per game. Over 72 percent of those attempts were catch and shoots, as he took 4.2 per game.
Kendrick Nunn wasn’t the only player who was subjected to the role of floor spacer, as Andre Iguodala was in the same boat. Iguodala took 73.4 percent of his shots from behind the arc as he averaged 2.9 attempts per game. Catch and shoots were responsible for 82.8 percent of those attempts as he averaged 2.4 per game.
Hardaway Jr. has shown the ability to excel in this role as he has converted 37.6 percent of his catch and shoots on 4.1 attempts per game since 2013. Catch and shoots account for 69.5 percent of his threes, as he has shot 36 percent from behind the arc on 5.9 shots per game.
Despite Hardaway’s ability to excel in the role, the Heat are going to run into one potential roadblock: his free-agent contract. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report spoke to a salary cap expert on May 18th who estimates that Hardaway could make up to 20 million per year on his next contract.
The 20-million-dollar salary would be too excessive for the Miami Heat to pay for Hardaway to be a spot-up shooter. Miami would have to give Hardaway a more prominent role to justify his contract. For example, Hardaway experienced his biggest statistical season during the 2018-19 campaign when he averaged a career-high of 3.9 pick and rolls per game.
He was able to shoot 40.8 percent from the field on these pick and rolls in 3.0 attempts per game. The field goal percentage allowed him to score 3.8 points per game: 20.9 percent of his scoring output.
Sadly, the Heat can’t offer him that particular role due to the deficiencies of their main star, Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler has declined as an outside shooter since 2019. Before 2019, he has shot 37.5 percent outside of the restricted area on 9.7 attempts.
He has experienced a severe decline since 2019 as he is shooting 34.5 percent on 8.1 attempts outside of the restricted area. Consequently, if Miami chooses to give the ball to Hardaway, defenders will leave Butler open because they know he struggles to shoot outside the restricted area. Butler’s limitations increase the likelihood that Hardaway would see an uptick in his contested shots as Butler’s defender could help Hardaway.
One would assume that a possible solution to this issue would be to stagger both Hardaway and Butler. Unfortunately, the Miami Heat currently have their second primary ball-handler in Goran Dragić coming off the bench.
Dragić was 2nd on the team in pick and rolls, averaging 5.1 per game. That is unlikely to change as league insiders expect Dragić to re-sign with the team this off-season. Therefore, Hardaway would be in a similar position that he would with Butler.
The dilemma that the Heat face because of Jimmy Butler suggests that they should look at cheaper options before deciding to pay Hardaway potentially $20 million. A potential target could be Devonte’ Graham, who has converted 42 percent of his catch and shoots on 3.3 attempts per game.
Catch and shoots account for 45.8 percent of his attempts as he shot 36 percent from behind the arc on 7.2 shots per game. More importantly, Graham is projected to make less than $15 million per year on his next contract.
If the Heat can’t agree to a contract with Devonte’ Graham, they should move to Otto Porter Jr. He has made 41.8 percent of his catch and shoot threes on 3.0 attempts per game. Catch and shoots have propelled him to shoot 40.2 percent from behind the arc on 3.3 attempts per game. Like Graham, he is projected to also make less than $15 million on his potential contract.
In conclusion, although Hardaway appears to be an ideal fit on the surface, his projected contract would be too expensive for the Heat to use him as a spot-up shooter.