Jaden Hardy has now played an NBA game (albeit in Las Vegas Summer League) for the Dallas Mavericks, and he looked wonderful. 28 points on 47 percent shooting with a few assists and a few rebounds is an excellent first showing for any second round pick. However, for Mavericks fans, this stellar performance comes with a little more weight considering the current circumstances.
Dallas is soon to lose their second-best playmaker in Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks (he’s yet to sign, but that’s coming soon). The loss has fueled an outbreak of emotion-driven resentment from Mavericks fans across the internet. Sure, the former 2018 second-round pick was the Mavericks’ second best playmaker who was seemingly just coming into his own as a legitimate second fiddle in Luka Doncic’s orchestra. And yes, the Mavericks objectively messed up by not offering Brunson an extension earlier in the 2021-22 season. The handling of the situation by both the Mavericks and the future Knicks guard was a bit dreadful, but now that the dust is settling and Dallas looks toward the future, it’s best to take a step back and see the situation for what it is.
Brunson commanded an absurd amount of money for a 16 point a game scorer with no accolades in the pros. Maybe he will pan out to be 20 and six a night, with a few all-star appearances and the contract will look just right. But maybe he doesn’t. And had the Mavericks re-signed him in the case of the latter, their payroll wouldn’t be less clogged for another three to four years.
Going back to Hardy, the Mavericks 2022 second round pick, Dallas has a much clearer path to a championship with him developing for much less. Realistically, Dallas is not beating the Clippers, the Nuggets, or the Warriors at full strength if you just add Jalen Brunson back to the current roster (with the addition of Christian Wood). They always needed more. Brunson was not a make or break acquisition, and it might be a blessing in disguise that they weren’t able to retain him. Not only does it give them more future cap room, but it allows Jaden Hardy to go develop a lot more quickly.
So let’s wildly overreact to his first NBA game. Hardy is more talented than Brunson, I think this was clear in his high school days as well as at times in the G-League last year, but he has a lot more raw of a talent. One of his big issues last year was finishing, and he looked great against Chicago in the restricted area. He looked smooth and in control as the ball handler in the pick and roll and did not look like what I would expect from a 37th overall pick. Hardy showed flashes of a guy who can come off the bench, give you 11 points and three assists, and then as he gains more and more game experience, potentially be a second creator down the stretch of games next to Luka Doncic.
Given time and development, he might do everything Brunson did, with more size and athleticism. He’s not going to be that guy right away, but he sure looks like he’s going to be an integral part of this team not too far down the road. Normally, it’s not wise to overreact over one game, but Jaden Hardy played too well and has too much talent to not say that the Mavericks just might have stolen a Jalen Brunson replacement from the depths of the NBA draft.
Click here to go to our latest episode of After Dark, part of the Mavs Moneyball podcast feed, click play on the embed below, or go to your favorite podcast provider and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast. I was joined postgame by Jose, one of the cohosts of #77Spaces, along with Jas and Rolo, which is a pre-game and off-season Twitter Space. Click here to listen to one of their previous shows.