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2022 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Jaden Hardy

Should the Grizzlies pursue the former 5-Star prospect?

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G League Ignite vs Santa Cruz Warriors Photo by Mike Rasay/NBAE via Getty Images

Over the next 3 weeks, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2022 draft. We’ll primarily look at who they may pick with the 22th and 29th pick, or with a pick from a possible trade up in the draft.

Jaden Hardy, Wing, G League Ignite

  • 6’4”, 6’9” wingspan, 190 pounds, 19 years old, from Detroit, MI
  • Last season with the Ignite: In 12 Games (32.1 minutes per game) — 17.7 points on 35.1% shooting (26.9% from 3, 88.2% from the free throw line), 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals
  • 3 STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): FT% (88.2%), Points (19.8 per 36), Proj. NBA 3P% (37.5%)
  • 3 STATS TO IMPROVE (per Tankathon): EFG% (40.2%), Turnovers (3.9 per 36), AST/TO (0.9)
  • AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: 2021 McDonald’s All-American, 5-Star recruit according to Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN before forgoing college basketball
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENT: 30 (Tankathon), 15 (The Ringer), 33 (ESPN), 19 (CBS Sports), 30 (The Athletic), 31 (Bleacher Report)

After being one of the top prospects coming out of high school in 2021, Hardy followed the likes of Jalen Green in playing for the G League Ignite instead of college basketball. Hardy, a top 5 prospect across the board, was the biggest incoming name for the Ignite this past season. Hardy, and the Ignite, didn’t have quite the same hype as the team led by Green and Jonathan Kuminga but still had plenty to be excited about.

The season didn’t quite go the way Hardy would have hoped it would. After being listed as a potential top-five pick, Hardy now would probably consider himself lucky if he’s drafted in the lottery. At first glance, his stats don’t look bad. 17.7 points per game to go along with 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists is solid but his efficiency was lacking. Shooting 35% from the field on high volume, including 27% from deep on 78 attempts, is not good. Throw in the 3.5 turnovers per game and Hardy struggled offensively with the Ignite.

12 games in the G League doesn’t quite define a player, though, especially one so highly touted coming out of high school. Could Hardy be a potential target for the Grizzlies late in the first round?

Areas of Strength

G League Ignite v Santa Cruz Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite the struggles with efficiency, Hardy is a bucket. He’s an excellent isolation scorer, able to use a deep bag of moves to get to his spots and get good looks. Expanding his range would come in handy for Hardy, who struggled with consistency at the G League level. Despite the shots going in, he still has great potential in expanding his range thanks to solid form on his jump shot. He doesn’t get to the line a ton, but shooting 30-34 from the free throw line last season shows signs he can improve his jumper.

He won’t be praised as much as Ignite teammate MarJon Beauchamp is on the defensive end, but Hardy will likely appeal to teams with how he battles and fights on the defensive end. He takes charges and has the length to disrupt passing lanes and force turnovers.

Areas of Weakness

G League Ignite vs Santa Cruz Warriors Photo by Mike Rasay/NBAE via Getty Images

The issue with Hardy is he’s a bit one dimensional. He needs to prove he’s more than just a microwave scorer at the next level. He’s not the most explosive player, which will hurt him when attacking the basket at the NBA level. He’s solid at finishing around the rim but could work on his craftiness attacking.

The main area of concern is his decision making. Tasked with being a scorer growing up, Hardy forces the issue at times and takes questionable shots. He’ll need to prove he can pass up decent opportunities for himself to set up great looks for others. He improved in his time with the Ignite as the pick-and-roll ball handler but still averaged more turnovers than assists per game.

When locked in, he battles defensively but has mental lapses at times and isn’t focused the entire game. Defense in the G League is few and far between, and with Hardy putting so much effort on the offensive end, it makes sense that he would suffer from a lack of focus at times last season. He’ll need to prove he’s willing to take on a lesser role offensively and shift some of that energy to the defensive end in the NBA.

Fit with the Grizzlies

Hardy would be an interesting fit with the Grizzlies. If selected, Hardy figures to spend a majority of his time coming off the bench. Currently the Grizzlies bench is highly effective due to their unselfish play with Tyus Jones (an unrestricted free agent) pacing the pass friendly offense. Would Hardy mess with the bench unit vibes? Potentially.

At times though, the Grizzlies bench lacked that offensive pop when the ball wasn’t moving on a string like it normally would. Someone like Hardy who can create a shot outside of the flow of the offense would be beneficial, especially if the Grizzlies are incorporating a new back up point guard next season. Without the benefit of hindsight from the offseason, it’s tough to really figure out Hardy’s fit. If the roster is mostly the same, it’s tough to see him playing a ton of minutes and his isolation heavy style of play would be a major question mark as the Grizzlies would likely hope to see a leap from Ziaire Williams. If the Grizzlies make some pretty substantial changes that ultimately leads to Dillon Brooks and/or De’Anthony Melton on the move, Hardy’s offense could be a necessity off the bench for Memphis.

Hardy is an excellent ball-handler, and I think his efficiency will improve at the NBA level with less volume and attention directed at him. Watching some of his film from high school shows he’s capable of taking and making tough, deep shots. He’ll need to prove he can grow into more than an isolation scorer. Strictly as an iso guy, Hardy’s fit in Memphis is weird but it could be just the right amount of weird the team could use off the bench.

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