Jaden Hardy will begin his NBA career with one of its best franchises — playing alongside one of its very best players.
Hardy will join superstar Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, who acquired the No. 37 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night from the Sacramento Kings in order to select the former Coronado standout.
The Mavericks reached the Western Conference finals last month, falling 4-1 to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. They also traded this month for former UNLV standout Christian Wood, giving Hardy a local connection as he transitions to the next level.
Hardy, a 6-foot-5-inch guard, is one of the top players ever to prep in Las Vegas — ascending to the No. 2 ranking in the high school graduating class of 2021 amid stellar play with the Cougars and Vegas Elite. He garnered scholarship offers from practically all of the top collegiate basketball programs.
However, he opted to play last season with the NBA’s G-League Ignite, a developmental team comprised of top prospects and other veteran professionals that plays against other G-League teams.
A projected lottery pick before the 2021-22 season, Hardy struggled to score efficiently early in the season before finding a groove toward its end. He averaged 19.8 points on 37.9 percent shooting, including 31.7 percent from 3-point range across 24 exhibition and showcase games.
But in the final eight, he scored 22.5 per game while shooting on 37.7 percent from 3-point range.
Hardy was still expected to be selected in the first round and garnered an invite to the draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. He was the No. 19 overall prospect on Dallas’ draft board, according to ESPN, and joins a perimeter that includes a perennial MVP candidate in Doncic and veteran guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock.
Hardy on Thursday became the first local draft pick since former Las Vegas High and Las Vegas Knicks standout Tyler Bey, who was selected No. 36 overall in 2020.
He is expected to participate in the NBA Summer League, which begins July 7 at Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.