Jaden Hardy Primed for a Breakout Sophomore Season

Jaden Hardy finished the first team practice this offseason as he prepares for his second appearance in the Summer League with the Dallas Mavericks. Hardy was selected 37th overall in the NBA 2022 draft and put together a promising rookie year in which his potential became a reality.

During Hardy’s rookie season, he averaged 8.8 points per game (43.8 FG% 40.4 3PT%), collected 1.9 rebounds per game and dished out 1.4 assists per game in 14.8 minutes per game. After All-Star break is where Hardy really shined and showcased his development from G League assignments and practice.

In 17 games post All-Star break, Hardy averaged 12.8 points per game (45.3 FG% 45.9 3PT%), 2.7 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists per game in 20.1 minutes per game.

“I feel like I had a good rookie season. Going from playing in the G League to being able to help my team later on in the season. I feel like I helped contribute to the team any way that I could to help us get wins.” Hardy stated when I asked him to assess his rookie season.

The natural ability to score and shoot is encouraging when projecting the guard’s promising career. The versatility of playing on and off the ball will help Hardy see plenty of time on the court with other backcourt teammates in Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving and free agent Seth Curry.

Hardy scored 20+ points five times in a six-game stretch during his rookie year and averaged 20.3 points (22-48 3FG, .458), 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in that span (3/11-3/22/23). He joined lottery picks Paolo Banchero (1st overall pick, ORL), Bennedict Mathurin (6th overall pick, IND) and Jalen Williams (13th overall pick, OKC) as the only rookies to score 20+ points five times over a six-game stretch this season.

Hardy also had the third-most 20-point games (9) by a Maverick (Dončić, 86; Dennis Smith Jr., 18) before his 21st birthday, and is second for the most 25-point outings (5) by a Maverick before his 21st birthday (Dončić, 57; Smith Jr., 4). Hardy turns 21 on Wednesday, July 6 so I asked him if he would do anything special to celebrate it, he responded by being in the gym preparing for summer league.

The second-year guard is excited about the showcase in Las Vegas to continue developing his game, polishing the tools, getting stronger, being faster and keep learning the defensive concepts to grow into a player who can play both sides of the court. Hardy has been preparing his body to play more games next season lifting weights, staying in the gym working on his craft, running and eating right. He wants to focus on making the right plays in Summer League as if he was playing with Dončić and Irving.

Hardy stated that he didn’t have anything to prove as this is his second time in the event, he just wants to win and make winning plays.

The Mavericks selected two rookies in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft and now have five players on the main roster who are younger than 25 years old. The Mavs are building a youth movement in the roster with Hardy, Dončić, Josh Green, Dereck Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper. When I asked Hardy how it felt not be the youngest on the team anymore, he smiled and said he’s moving on up with Lively II (19) now the youngest Mavs player.

“I feel like that’s great. We got fresh young legs being able to get out and run, play fast in transition and be able to fly around.” Hardy on the youth movement on the team.

Hardy highlighted playmaking is a part of his game he wanted to enhance. Being able to make the right plays, seeing different coverages and making the right reads. He wants to continue to polish his game and he feels like he is one of the best young scorers in the league. He also mentioned preparing his body this season to be in better shape and help his team on both sides of the ball. Defense will be key for his development and increased minutes every night.

“Just knowing all the defensive schemes, knowing where I am supposed to be at and knowing who I am guarding. Knowing their tendencies will help me a lot out there on the defensive side of the ball.” Hardy stated when I asked him what areas he can improve on defense.” Hardy on improvements he will make defensively in his sophomore season.

Sophomore slumps can be a thing in the NBA as opposing teams have more film and scouting reports breaking down tendencies, but Hardy isn’t afraid of it as he looks forward to a big second year.

“Going into my sophomore season, I’m super excited. I want to bring energy to the team, that’s going to be my way of helping the team. Bringing energy, having fun out there and bringing that juice. I feel like that’s where my part is, come out there and do anything I can to help the team win.” Hardy said when I asked him what he’s excited about heading in his sophomore season.

I asked Hardy what players did he look up to growing up. He responded with Kobe Bryant, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, James Harden, Bradley Beal. He really liked those players growing up and who he watched to take things out of their game to implement in his own. He added Irving and Dončić for players on the team he looks up to the most.

“Being able to just learn, like knowledge wise, but also watching their daily routines. I feel like that’s where I can get the most from them in learning their daily routines. What they like to do and how they take care of their bodies, what they do before the games to get ready for games and what they do after the game. Seeing what they like to do and add it to what I like to do.” Hardy stated when I asked him what he has he taken from Irving and Dončić during his time in Dallas.

Hardy has goals for the upcoming season and winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award is one of them.

“That’s one of my goals I want to win if I got that opportunity for sure. That’s what I want to do, is to win Sixth Man of the Year.” Hardy mentioned when I asked what his personal goals are this upcoming season.

Mavericks assistant coach Jared Dudley will be leading the team during Summer League and he will give Hardy the keys to the offense as he expects the young promising guard to have 18-20 shots a game and wants at least 15 of them to be good looks. Dudley wants Hardy to be able to make the right play against different coverages and improve on being a playmaker being the number one player in the offense.

Dudley said Hardy’s potential is high while his confidence and shot-making ability is elite.

The Mavericks will begin competition in their 17th summer in Las Vegas against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, July 8 at 2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN2). Following the opener against the Thunder, Dallas will face Philadelphia on Monday, July 10 at 7:00 p.m. CT (ESPNU), Golden State on Wednesday, July 12 at 4:30 p.m. CT (NBA TV) and Indiana on Friday, July 14 at 5:30 p.m. CT (NBA TV).

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