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'We Were Shocked:' GM Nico Harrison Reveals Mavs' Reasons for Jaden Hardy Pick

The Dallas Mavericks ended up with a first-round talent in the NBA Draft despite previously trading their only pick to the Houston Rockets for Christian Wood.

After trading the No. 26 pick in the NBA Draft and salary filler to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Christian Wood, the Dallas Mavericks weren't sure if they'd get back into the draft or not. That all depended on if the right player slipped far enough to where the Mavs could acquire a second-round pick for little-to-no cost.

That opportunity presented itself on Thursday night, as the Sacramento Kings traded the No. 37 pick to the Mavs for two future second-round picks in 2024 and 2028. Dallas then drafted 19-year-old G League Ignite guard Jaden Hardy – a player the Mavs reportedly had at No. 19 on their draft big board.

“He’s a young kid, played for the G League Ignite, and he can really score the ball," said GM Nico Harrison. "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.”

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

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.

"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.”

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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.

"Like I said earlier, he struggled early on and he figured it out and got better and better. If you look at his teammates, one of the things is 'he doesn’t pass the ball. He’s selfish.' Those were kind of the knocks on him. But, if you look at the way he played, his team always gave him the ball. They trusted him and know he has the work ethic. He put the time in the gym. If you look at his teammates [where] some of them are veterans, he had the ball in his hand because they gave him the ball. If you see the shot clock running down, they gave him the ball. They only do that for people they trust.”

The next step for Hardy will be Summer League play, which will begin two weeks from now. Stay tuned to for more post-draft and pre-free agency coverage.

You can follow Dalton Trigg on Twitter at @dalton_trigg

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