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Jaden Hardy: Jersey No. 3, Officially Signs Mavs Contract - Learn from Jalen Brunson Mistake?

The Mavs held out some of their taxpayer mid-level exception in order to give Jaden Hardy a deal

DALLAS - Part of the reason the Dallas Mavericks lost Jalen Brunson earlier than they should have was due to how his rookie contract was constructed.

Instead of making it to where Brunson would’ve been a restricted free agent after his third year, he was given a straight four-year contract by the previous Dallas front office regime that made him an unrestricted free agent after the fourth year … That ended up being a major mistake, as Brunson left for the New York Knicks after four seasons, and the Mavs have nothing to show for it.

According to Marc Stein, Mavs GM Nico Harrison is making sure that same mistake isn’t made with rookie Jaden Hardy, who was drafted by Dallas with the No. 37 pick two weeks ago. 

The Mavs have signed Hardy to a deal that we believe will make him a restricted free agent after the third year, meaning that Dallas will be able to match any offer sheet he signs if an extension isn’t agreed on beforehand. Dallas is using a small part of its taxpayer mid-level exception ($6.3 million) to be able to sign Hardy to a three-year deal and giving the rest to JaVale McGee.

Given that the Mavs haven’t really done anything to address the loss of Brunson yet, Hardy - who will wear jersey No. 3 - might get a chance to be a key part of the bench rotation in his rookie year.

In 13 games for the Ignite, Hardy averaged 21.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals. He was ESPN’s top guard and No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2021. Although he struggled with his efficiency in the G League, Harrison believes that experience will end up helping him more than playing college basketball would have.

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"If you look at the way he grew with the Ignite, he started off a little slow. [But] he really came into his own," said Harrison. "He’s athletic, he’s long [with a] long wingspan [and] good size. 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.”

Going through struggles and being able to learn from them is a trait the Mavs would likely look for in any prospect, and Hardy has it. He shot just 35.1 percent from the field with the Ignite, including 26.9 percent from deep, but his 88.2 percent free-throw percentage indicates that the shooting potential is there.

"He’s a guy who can go get a bucket. He’s strong. He’s athletic. He’s a scorer ... 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," said Harrison.

“We had him higher than 37 [laughs]. Yeah, we were surprised. We were really shocked that he kept slipping.”

Hardy will get his first chance to shine in a Mavericks uniform this weekend when the NBA Summer League begins in Las Vegas. The first game will be on Friday, July 8 at 3 p.m. central time against the Chicago Bull. It will be broadcasted on ESPNU.