‘Jaden Hardy is a steal’: Mavericks rookie impresses in preseason debut

Dallas Mavericks center Christian Wood consistently praised rookie Jaden Hardy throughout the summer, and the newcomer did so once again after their preseason opener on Wednesday.

Hardy produced 16 of his team-high 21 total points in the fourth quarter to lead the Mavericks to a 98-96 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Tulsa. He finished by shooting 8-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range.

The performance came as the Mavericks played without Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber and JaVale McGee. Hardy hit all four of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as he accounted for nearly all of the Mavericks’ 22 points late in the game.

“I really just wanted to win so somebody had to step up,” Hardy said. “Coach was preaching to us to stick to what we got to do — running our plays, playing hard. I feel like everybody did a good job that was out on the court of playing hard, playing together.”

Said head coach Jason Kidd of his performance:

I think it shows the work that he has put in since summer league. He spent a lot of time in the gym. He is coming back at night. He is working not just on the floor but watching video and he wants to be good. He wants to play and participate. You can see that in tonight’s game.

Hardy was viewed by many as a first-round pick this year and was even one of the 24 prospects invited to attend the draft from the green room. He instead fell to the Mavericks at No. 37, which was viewed as one of the biggest surprises of draft night.

He quickly showed in summer league why many thought he’d be a first-round pick, scoring 28 points in his first game in Las Vegas. The performance prompted Wood to call him the steal of the draft, something he echoed on Wednesday.

I’ve been saying for a long time: Jaden Hardy is a steal. His confidence and energy has been so great. I’m really proud to see that. … Everybody has the ultimate confidence and believes in him. As a young guy, he has very high confidence and that’s what you want to see from a rookie.

Hardy carried that draft-night fall as motivation over the offseason, and the 20-year-old worked hard to prepare for the upcoming season. Though his latest effort came in a preseason game, it still showed that he perhaps should have been drafted higher.

The Mavericks certainly stand to benefit by adding such a player to their roster as Hardy is showing that he is capable of contributing this year. He is impressing those around him and that could help him carve out a role in the rotation.

Dallas returns to play on Friday versus the Orlando Magic.

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Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire