Young Mavericks guard is poised to enter new role at perfect time

With a potential series-clinching Game 6 versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on the agenda for the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday evening, it’s of the utmost importance that the Mavericks are playing their best brand of basketball in the playoffs going forward, as the matchups won’t get any easier if the Mavericks can advance to the Western Conference Finals.

While the Mavericks have played stelar defense from top-to-bottom in these playoffs, Dallas’ defense can only carry them so far, as the Mavericks will need to thrive in terms of their shot creation and playmaking at the point-of-attack if they wish to be true contenders in these playoffs.

With Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic drawing as much defensive attention as possible within these last two rounds, they haven’t always been able to provide the scoring punch the Mavericks need from a shot creation perspective, especially with Doncic not being 100 percent health-wise.

Jaden Hardy is poised to enter new role at perfect time

On a roster filled with wings and bigs meant to complement Irving and Doncic’s three-level scoring ability and playmaking, the Mavericks have sometimes lacked some tertiary offensive creation against more dynamic defenses.

With Dante Exum performing poorer than initially expected in these playoffs, Jason Kidd made a decision to turn to 21-year-old Jaden Hardy in Game 5 against the Thunder instead, and Hardy was able to step up to the task in a playoff setting during his 15 minutes of run.

Hardy only finished with two points on 1-5 shooting from the field, but the young guard stepped up to the task defensively and played well within the flow of the Mavericks’ offense. Hardy also does a great job of getting downhill to apply pressure on the paint, as his ability to get downhill helps with Dallas’ ball movement and general offensive flow. Exum couldn’t be trusted anymore due to his lack of confidence, and Kidd decided to roll the dice with Hardy.

Hardy may have not had a jaw-dropping offensive performance against the Thunder, but his imprint and scoring threat on the game was noticeable, and he’s one of the Mavericks best options if they want to sprinkle in some three-guard lineups in these playoffs. So long as Hardy continues to play stout defense both on and off-ball, he will likely continue to see the floor in these playoffs as the last man in Dallas’ rotation, as Jason Kidd spoke glowingly of Hardy at Dallas’ Friday practice.

Hardy seems to have accrued enough trust from Kidd and his teammates to play on the big stage, something that is a crucial development when you take into consideration that some of the potential that Hardy has flashed over the past two seasons was seemingly negated by the Mavericks because of some extremely rough shooting performances by Hardy in a few games during this past regular season. Kidd also referenced how Hardy did a good job as a playmaker on Wednesday night, as he was able to set up Mavericks’ big men for multiple alley-oops within the pick and roll in Game 5.

Hardy’s evolution and maturity as a playmaker and scorer could be coming at the perfect time for the Mavericks, as he seems like he’s finally poised to be able to play in competitive playoff environment, though confidence has never even been the issue with Hardy whatsoever.

Hardy has been a solid replacement for Exum in the lineup, and only time will tell if Kidd decides to utilize Hardy even more in Game 6 against the Thunder.

For more on Jaden Hardy, Dante Exum, and the Dallas Mavericks during their run in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, stay tuned as we will have you covered through it all.

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