The Dallas Mavericks did not have draft picks for the second straight year, but this season, they found a way to get into the draft and grabbed G League Ignite guard Jaden Hardy after acquiring the 37th pick from Sacramento in exchange for 2024 and 2028 second-round picks Thursday night.
The 6-4 Hardy spent the 2021-22 season with the NBA G League Ignite and averaged a team-high 19.8 points to go along with 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 24 games.
“He’s a guy who can go get a bucket,” Mavs GM Nico Harrison said Thursday night. “He’s strong. He’s athletic. He’s a scorer. I think his upside is [that] he’s played with mature guys and been successful with strong, mature guys. I think 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… If you look at his teammates [where] some of them are veterans; he had the ball in his hand because they gave him.”
The 19-year-old Hardy dropped in the draft, surprising many, including Harrison.
“We had him higher than 37 [laughs],” Harrison said Thursday night. “Yeah, we were surprised. We were really shocked that he kept slipping…
“I have no idea. I can’t tell you what other teams are thinking or saying. I’m glad he did, and we are excited that he did. He’s excited to be here, so I’m happy he slipped.”
Hardy was ranked as ESPN’s top guard and the No. 2 player in the 2021 high school class. The Detroit native averaged 30.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.4 assists as a junior at Coronado High School (Henderson, Nevada) en route to earning Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, McDonald’s All-American, and USA Nike Hoops Summit in 2020-21.
Hardy got off to a slow start in the G League, but ultimately, he got acclimated and scored the ball at a high level, scoring over 20 points in the final five games of the season.
“He did struggle early on, but then he figured it out, Harrison said. “It’s kind of like, if you look at the G-League Ignite as an experiment, it shows that it works…
“He’s a young kid, played for the G League Ignite, and he can really score the ball. Super talented, he’s 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.”
Hardy can do it effectively off the bounce, is a solid shooter, and is a good addition for the Mavs. He may not contribute immediately, but he definitely has the talent to be a key piece in the future.