A year before the 2022 NBA draft, Jaden Hardy predicted to be a top 5 pick going into the 2021-22 G League season with the Ignite. While statistically he had a solid season, his draft inventory declined quite a bit throughout the year through summer.
This was mainly due to inefficiency as a goalscorer. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 17.7 points on his unique path to skipping college and going straight to the G League, but was one of the most inefficient shooters in his class.
With that in mind, Hardy was still viewed as a guy who would likely go into the first round. The lottery was no longer a realistic option, but certainly later in the first round was expected by many of the event’s participants. On the night of the 2022 NBA draft, Hardy slipped to 37th overall when the Dallas Mavericks traded in the second round to pick him.
From there, the 20-year-old immediately established himself as a potential steal compared to where he was picked.
In five NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas, Hardy averaged 15 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists. However, he still struggled to score efficiently, shooting just 34.7% from the ground and 26.9% from deep.
Next came the preseason, when Hardy was again inefficient but averaged 9.7 points per fight against legitimate NBA defenses and within a true rotation.
Dallas is a team looking to compete after a trip to the Western Conference Finals, so it was expected that the rookie would find it difficult to get minutes early in the regular season.
However, it is about time that changed.
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The Mavericks have had a slow start this season and are 10-10 so far. Many of their veteran guards are struggling, so a reshuffle of the rotation could be a positive change.
Additionally, Hardy’s G League play has earned him at least one chance with the Mavs. He’s only touched the NBA-level court for nine minutes this season, which isn’t nearly enough for him to show what he’s worth.
The talented rookie has been the G League’s top scorer to date, averaging 29.0 points and 3.4 assists in nine competitions. He’s even proven he can score efficiently, shooting 54.8% from the ground and 48.2% from deep on nearly ten attempts per game. According to Cerebro Sports, he is even ranked as one of the best players in the G League in terms of goal efficiency.
Given that Hardy’s primary hurdle as a prospect was offensive inefficiency, he’s proven he can overcome that and needs a chance to showcase that improvement at the next level. It’s worth noting that he’s had some turnover issues with the Texas Legends in the G League, but he’s been looking a lot better lately.
Hardy was recalled by the Legends and lined up for the Mavericks against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. Ahead of this game, Dallas head coach Jason Kidd mentioned that he would like to buy Hardy some playing time in this competition.
At the end of the night, Hardy never took action and posted a DNP. The Mavericks clinched the win, but the coaching staff chose not to give him a minute along the way.
Given Dallas’ inconsistency on offense this season, it’s time to give Hardy a chance. Especially away from the bench, as the main scorer with the second unit, he has what it takes to be a real spark that can positively influence the game.
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