Nico Harrison wasn’t going to trade back into the draft unless there was a player he really liked.
At pick No. 37, that player was evidently Jaden Hardy, as the Dallas Mavericks traded two future second-round picks to the Sacramento Kings for Hardy’s draft rights. Hardy was the No. 19 player on Dallas’ draft board and projected as a top 20 prospect in the entire draft. So, after a long night on the phones, seeing what would or could be done, Harrison felt like Dallas received great value for all the upside Hardy possesses.
“He’s athletic, he’s long [with a] long wingspan [and] good size,” Harrison said after the draft. “He can get to the basket at will and he’s really, I mean – he’s a scorer. He’s been a scorer his whole life, but I think when you take a kid that doesn’t go to college and tries the G League Ignite and is playing with older, more mature people and you see him develop as he’s going through that, it just shows you what he can become.
“He’s a young kid who played for the G League Ignite and can score the ball,” Harrison said. ” [He] is super talented, still raw – he’s young, so it’s going take a while. He was a second-round draft pick, but he can really score the ball at a high level.”
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hardy, a player who oozes potential, slipped to the second round for a reason. He’s a project, not a finished product. And if Dallas’ window to compete is now, the likelihood of him playing meaningful NBA minutes next season is slim to none.
“I’m not sure yet,” Harrison said of Hardy’s role on the roster. “Either way, we expect him to be a guy that has a long-term future with us.”
Hardy as a player
In 13 games in the G League, Hardy averaged 21.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Great numbers on the surface. However, Hardy shot an inefficient 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from three on 19 field goal attempts per game.
Hardy is a project, not an immediate contributor.
“I think you’ve got to give young guys a chance to develop,” Harrison said. “We drafted him because we think he’ll be a rotation player, for sure.”
The good news is that Hardy has all the needed intangibles. He was ranked the No. 2 prospect in his class by ESPN for a reason. And at 6-foot-4, with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Hardy has encouraging size to be a future shot creator and ball handler. He’s a good free-throw shooter (88 percent), indicating that he has a decent touch and solid shooting mechanics. And in his final 10 games with the G League Ignite, Hardy averaged 22 points with a 52 percent true shooting percentage — showing how as the season wore on, he got better.
Still, at the NBA level, he’s a project. And he might be a long one.
Jaden Hardy (@JadenHardy1) went off & shot the lights out at @KlutchSports pro day😳Hardy’s scoring off the dribble is nice. His focus is to show he’s the best shooter in this draft 🔥#jadenhardy #nba #basketball #nbadraft pic.twitter.com/q8RnZfM4ih
— Swish Cultures (@swishcultures_) May 26, 2022
Hardy’s fit in Dallas
In a season where Dallas made the Western Conference finals, drafting Hardy comes as a head-scratcher. He isn’t someone who will help Dallas win now. Hardy will most likely spend most of the year in the G League.
However, the potential is there. Everyone can see it. Harrison liked him enough to trade back into the draft. Now, it all comes down to Dallas’ plan for his development. Step one is the NBA Summer League.
“He’s a guy who can go get a bucket,” Harrison said. “I think his upside is [that] he’s played with mature guys and been successful. If you look at a guy doing that in college versus doing that in the G League Ignite, I think it’s closer to what the NBA game is.
“He put the time in the gym. If you look at his teammates [where] some of them are veterans, he had the ball in his hand because they gave him the ball. If you see the shot clock running down, they gave him the ball. They only do that for people they trust.”
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Feature image via Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.