Jaden Hardy, a former consensus top-five player in the country, didn’t expect to be taken in the second round.

But now that Hardy is with the Dallas Mavericks, after falling to the No. 37 overall pick, he figures draft night worked out just fine.

“It added more fuel to my fire,” Hardy said. “I’m super excited to be a Maverick. I am glad they got me, and I can’t wait to work.”

How did the Mavs land Hardy

Hardy spent his pre-draft season playing with the NBA’s G League Ignite team, where his early struggles hurt his draft stock in the eyes of teams around the league.

He averaged 17.7 points and 4.6 assists on 35 percent from the field and 26 percent from three. It wasn’t pretty. And in a near foreshadowing event, Hardy almost chose college instead of playing in the NBA G League. However, then — out of high school — he felt like he was ready to be a pro. Now, he’s eager to use what he’s learned playing for Ignite to make an impact on a Dallas team that reached the Western Conference finals last season.

“I was ready to be a pro,” Hardy said. “Me playing against NBA-level talent will help me be better in the long run.”

When he signed with the G League Ignite, Hardy was thinking about the long game and lasting impressions. In Dallas, he hopes those initial impressions flourish into genuine success. But the player the Mavericks are getting will take time to blossom.

He has all the physical tools, but his game doesn’t scream immediate impact. Hardy fell to the second round for a reason — efficiency and effort. Yet, what he lacks in instant roster improvement capabilities, Hardy brings a desire to learn and be better. That, for him, first starts with defense, where he feels he will earn respect.

“With my game, I bring a lot of stuff,” Hardy said. “I’m a three-level scorer who can play-make for others. And I know here, it’s going to start on the defensive end. That’s how I am going to gain the coach’s trust — just being a better defender and learning from the vets.”

What could Hardy be long-term? 

Throughout his high school playing career, Hardy drew comparisons to Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal — two players who can score the ball at all three levels.

Now that he’s in the league, he doesn’t like those comparisons as much, he said. Instead, he wants to forge his own path — create his own identity as a player and as a teammate.

To him, that means — on top of defending at a high level — becoming a reliable 3-point shooter to take pressure off Luka Doncic. Judging by his G League numbers, the prospects of him becoming a knock-down shooter aren’t great, but his mechanics are solid, and his work ethic is evident.

And, with his natural athleticism and feel for the game, that’s all he needs. All of that will come with time. For now, Hardy is ready to show that Dallas made the right move by trading back into the draft to select him.

Maybe it will be the Hardy selection that Nico Harrison and the rest of his brain trust never forget.

“They [the Mavericks] really want to see me succeed,” Hardy said. “With all the tools I have to my game, with me being able to shoot and create, I feel like I will fit with this team really well.”

Related Dallas Mavericks reading 

“What Jaden Hardy’s game looks like in Dallas.” 

Feature image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports