The Dallas Mavericks had their sights set on Jaden Hardy in the 2022 NBA Draft, and through some luck, they were able to select him, despite not having a first-round pick available. When Hardy slipped into the second round, the Mavericks shipped a pair of future second-round picks to the Sacramento Kings and selected Hardy 37th overall.
Dallas brought Hardy along perfectly, at first parking him with the G League Texas Legends to get plenty of reps. There was little chance of him seeing big minutes with the Mavericks, who were set to compete for the playoffs (welp), so rather than having Hardy waste away on the bench, they let him cook with the Legends. And he did, to the point that Mavericks fans were clamoring for Hardy to be brought back to the big squad to give Luka Doncic more help.
The Mavericks stayed the course, however, only bringing Hardy up when there were injuries or when the Legends were on long breaks. By February, they felt the rookie was ready for consistent minutes, and he stayed with the Mavericks the rest of the year. After the All-Star break, Hardy averaged 20 minutes per game, scoring 12.8 points and dishing out 2.4 assists per game. He even rebounded pretty well for a rookie guard, grabbing 2.7 rebounds per game.
Is Hardy ready to be a major part of this rotation? His play in the latter half of last season suggests he is, but until he’s put into that role for big minutes for a whole season, it’s still questionable. Hardy proved he belongs in the NBA, but now he has to show he can be a piece for a playoff contender. It’s considerably tougher when teams have film on a player and they’re facing starters more frequently.
The good thing is the Mavericks don’t need Hardy to do much beyond get buckets and be okay on defense. Anything beyond this would be a bonus. Hardy’s shot looks real, and he’s shown some ability to get to the basket. With a full season under his belt and his first offseason with NBA level trainers, there’s reason to be optimistic about Hardy taking another step with his offense.
Best Case Scenario
The ideal situation for the Mavericks is that Hardy comes into the season looking a bit bigger, making him tougher on defense and a little better on finishing through contact when driving. If he can increase his 3-point attempt volume to something along five or six attempts per game while still maintaining a 3-point shooting clip of around 37 percent, he’ll have a huge impact on the Mavericks’ season.
Worst Case Scenario
If Hardy’s shooting numbers drop with increased playing time, it’s hard to see a role for him with Dallas. He’ll still be learning on defense, his most glaring weakness, and he hasn’t yet shown he can be a playmaking guard. If he can’t hit the open three’s that Doncic and Kyrie Irving will produce, he’ll find himself glued to the Mavericks bench all season, and Dallas will be down a young offensive star.
If Hardy plays more than 65 games, averaging around 20 minutes per game and keeping his 3-point shooting percentage in the high thirties, it’ll be considered a huge success, for him and the Mavericks. He should also look to be better on rotations on defense, which should be an easy improvement for a second-year player.
The Mavericks handled Hardy’s situation perfectly from start to finish last season. If they continue developing him patiently and he puts in the work, his floor for the next year is an electric bench scorer that could win Dallas a few games with hot shooting nights. On the other hand, if he was able to add the ability to get the rim and finish consistently, the Mavericks could have a Sixth Man of the Year candidate on their hands. Either way, it’s nice to have young scorers on the Mavericks again.