2022 NBA Draft profile: Jaden Hardy’s scoring ability, athleticism a fit for Sixers

The 2022 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 23. Since the Nets decided to defer the pick owed to them as part of the James Harden trade, the Sixers will select 23rd overall. Ahead of the draft, we’ll look at several prospects that could fit the Sixers and be realistic possibilities at No. 23.

Jaden Hardy is one of the few players that skirted the college basketball route, despite ending his high school career as ESPN’s No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2021, sandwiched between Chet Holmgren and Emoni Bates. A consensus five-star recruit, Hardy opted to play in the NBA G League with the NBA G League Ignite, the same developmental team that 2021 top-10 draft picks Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga played for prior to being selected.

In 12 games with the Ignite, the 19-year-old averaged 17.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists, shooting 35 percent from the floor. While he averaged 6.5 three-point attempts per game, Hardy only shot 27 percent from beyond the arc, despite possessing the ability to hit from deep on a consistent basis. One of many options for the Sixers at No. 23, let’s dive into Hardy’s strengths and weaknesses and whether or not he fits in Philly ahead of next Thursday’s draft:

Strengths

At 6-foot-5, Hardy is a three-level scorer who possesses the playmaking ability to provide offense from all over the court. When he’s got the ball in his hands, Hardy has shown he can use his handles to attack the basket, weaving through defenders and absorbing contact in the lane to finish difficult shots at the rim. Even with his low shooting percentage from three-point range with the Ignite, Hardy’s potential to heat up from downtown adds another layer to his offensive game, as it causes defenders to choose between guarding him tightly and risk getting blown by, or sagging off and letting him take the shot from three. In the open court, he’s quick to get out in transition and once he does, the play will most likely end one of two ways: with a Hardy dunk himself, or an alley-oop to a teammate for a highlight-reel finish. On the defensive end, Hardy often uses his 6-foot-10 wingspan to alter shots and force turnovers (1.3 steals per game), setting his team up with high-quality chances at the other end of the floor.

Weaknesses

While his scoring ability is one of the biggest strengths to his game, the flip side for Hardy offensively is that often times, he tries to force the issue. There are moments of questionable decision-making when he’s got the ball, whether it’s putting up a difficult shot or exuding a sense of over-confidence that leads to turnovers. As mentioned above, he didn’t shoot particularly well from three-point land this past season, with a lack of consistency the primary reason. The issue with Hardy isn’t his ability to hit shots but his ability to be efficient on a daily basis. This will be a crucial part of his development once he enters the NBA, as well as the need to learn how to pick and choose his spots offensively and not become predictable for opponents to defend.

Fit with Sixers

Once considered a lottery pick by most draft analysts, Hardy now finds himself projected to be picked in the early 20s, which could line up nicely for the Sixers. There is no denying his offensive skillset would bring another weapon to the team, especially if he’s able to develop into a consistent threat from beyond the arc. One thing that differentiates Hardy from prospects going around him in mock drafts that needs to be taken into account is obviously his experience playing in the G League, as opposed to a college prospect who went one-and-done. Drafting him would provide the Sixers with a player that has already experienced a professional environment, which could prove beneficial in his development both on and off the court.

G League watchers know Hardy’s potential offensively, with his athleticism and shot creation (for the most part) something the Sixers could use off the bench. He can play multiple positions on the court and brings a physicality that may pique the interest of Sixers front office members come draft night, assuming they keep the pick.

The issues that caused him to slide down draft boards are a concern, but the prospect of drafting Hardy and adding a player with his type of skillset would be a welcome addition to a Sixers team that very much could use an offensive spark off the bench.

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