By now, pretty much everyone knows the story of how the Dallas Mavericks' offseason went. The team traded their only pick in the 2022 NBA Draft for Christian Wood, then traded back into the second round of that draft to select 20-year-old Jaden Hardy. Those moves were followed up by losing Jalen Brunson in free agency, adding JaVale McGee and two-way contract player Tyler Dorsey ... and here they are, getting ready for the new season in training camp.
Wood and McGee have gotten most of the headlines, but Hardy is a player that could potentially end up being the steal of the draft if he's developed properly. So far, Hardy is adapting nicely to his new environment, and he seems to be fitting in with his Mavs teammates.
"The first two days of training camp, it's been going really well. Guys in here competing, pushing each other, trying to get better, getting ready for the season. So it's been fun," said Hardy.
"Pretty much we've all been training together before training camp playing pick-up and stuff, so we all pretty much got the relationships and know each other's game and know how to play off of each other."
Hardy was the No. 1 guard prospect in the nation coming out of high school in 2021. Instead of going to college, he chose to play for the G League Ignite last year. That move likely contributed to his fall in the draft, as he struggled with his efficiency going up against higher-level competition than he would have faced at the collegiate level. However, Hardy's full potential is still waiting to be tapped into, and the young guard thinks he can have an impact with the Mavs during his rookie season.
"I feel like with my game, I can contribute with three-level scoring and my ability to play-make, get into the paint, find my teammates. And then really just competing on the defensive end, coming in playing hard with a chip on my shoulder," said Hardy.
"I was in here working with the coaches after Summer League. They just preached to me [about] getting more efficient, working on my shot, catch-and-shoot 3s, being able to play off the catch so when I'm out there playing with Luka [Doncic] and stuff like that. [I've also] been working on my ball handling and being a better defender."
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Hardy's talent has already caught the attention of his teammates. On media day, Spencer Dinwiddie noted that Hardy has "a lot of wiggle to his game" after playing pick-up games with him over the summer. Wood took it a step further on Tuesday while Hardy was talking to the media after practice, proclaiming loudly, "he's a steal! I'm telling you, he's a steal!"
In the G League, Hardy averaged 17.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, but only shot 35.1 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from deep. In Summer League play, Hardy averaged nearly identical numbers with 15 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 34.7 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from deep.
The common denominator with all of those stats is that Hardy was the No. 1 option – or very close to it – on both of those teams. Playing in a limited bench role for a team that is coming off a Western Conference Finals appearance will finally take some pressure off Hardy for the first time ... maybe ever. Being able to take his time while developing and soaking in all the knowledge from his coaches and teammates could pay dividends in the years to come.
Hardy might not become a main fixture in coach Jason Kidd's rotation immediately this season, but when his number is called, he'll be eager to show off the talent that had him projected as a lottery pick just one year ago.
"I have a chip on my shoulder," said Hardy. "Playing in the G League, I already know what it's like playing at this level, playing at a professional level. There were guys that I went against in the G League that played for championship teams ... I feel like having that experience will help me in the long run."
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