As the Dallas Mavericks offseason begins, it’s easy to see glaring issues that need to be addressed and how a hopeful season turned into a disaster. In the midst of that, there is an upside that can’t go unnoticed, this being the continual development of Jaden Hardy.
The Mavericks are in a state of retooling as they reevaluate the team, with many players that are soon to be free agents. Hardy looks to have a prominent role next season, regardless of who the front office brings in this summer. Mavericks GM Nico Harrison mentioned in exit interviews that Hardy’s next step is becoming an every day player. Hardy’s time with the Texas Legends prepared him to be that every day player and it showed in his decision making, comfortability handling the ball and efficiency in high-pressure situations.
Looking purely at statistics, here are the numbers that Jaden Hardy was averaging in the G League compared to what he was averaging in the NBA.
G League – Texas Legends
Games Played: 11
Points: 28.8 (54.6 FG%, 49.0 3PT%)
NBA – Dallas Mavericks
Games Played: 48
Points: 8.8 (43.8 FG%, 44.0 3PT%)
Based on this alone, there is a clear natural drop off in numbers because of the increased level of competition and number of games played. With the Texas Legends, Hardy had a career high of 41 points in November and already has had a career high with the Mavs of 29 points in just 26 minutes. This transition and ability to score in the same range between leagues shows the development and further long-term potential he possesses.
One of the primary advantages that the G League provides players is quality playing time in a competitive setting against players who are awaiting a call from the league or on a two-way contract. The G League is a step up from the leagues that they were previously used to in college. The adjustment in level of competition from college basketball to the NBA can be a huge jump and this adds a connecting step for players.
In Hardy’s case, he skipped college all together despite being the number three overall prospect in the 2021 class. Instead, he joined the G League Ignite team to help him prepare to immediately get ready for the NBA draft. In 24 games, Hardy was the Ignite’s leading scorer and averaged 19.8 points per game. From his time with Ignite to the Legends, there are several noticeable improvements in his game. These include improved efficiency, better control on the game’s tempo, and shot creation.
In addition, the G League allows more specialized development to occur when there are already a large number of veterans on NBA teams, including in their position.
Playing time in the NBA is in limited supply and comes with high demand. The G League emphasizes this point and reminds players that they always have to make the most out of their minutes and improve their game to stay relevant. A perfect example of this is Luka’s incredibly insane behind the backboard pass to Hardy. Hardy caught and shot the pass to make a three for the Mavs. After the game Hardy said, “I didn’t think he was going to be able to get it (the ball) to me but he did so I was like I got to knock this down for him.” This is just one example of Hardy’s urgency to make his minutes count in the NBA, especially when the star player makes such an effort to get him the ball.
Hardy is one of the most recent success stories the Mavs can point to, but another story further in the past that many fans forget because of how short the stint was, is J. J. Barea. At the time, the team was the Fort Worth Flyers when the G League was called the Development League (D League). Barea played with the Flyers for eight games in the 2006-2007 season and averaged 27.3 points, 7.8 assists, and 5 rebounds. He scored 40 points in two of those eight games and even was named Player of the Week in the league. This was pivotal to his success in the NBA, as he was a key piece in the Mavs 2011 Championship.
Right now there doesn’t seem to be a lot of positive takeaways from this season, but success from the G League and players maximizing the value of their time there, will help this organization’s approach to the development of youth on the roster. It’s been proven to work and can in the future, if needed.
The Mavericks secured the tenth pick in the first round of the NBA draft from the NBA lottery.
The NBA draft is Thursday, June 22.