NBA prospect Jaden Hardy has long drawn Beal comparisons


WASHINGTON -- As his pre-draft workout with the Washington Wizards was winding down, projected first-round pick Jaden Hardy was working his way around the perimeter arc, effortlessly dropping in 3-pointers one after another. He showed off a quick release and an accurate shot, which he hopes to convey to teams during this pre-draft process following a small sample size of inefficiency last season while playing for G-League Ignite.

Hardy, 19, played 12 games for Ignite and was their leading scorer, averaging 17.7 points per game. But he shot just 35.1% from the field and 26.9% from three. While his free throw percentage (88.2) was much better, Hardy does not believe the overall numbers he produced in the G-League accurately show the type of shooter and player he can be.

"I’m a way better shooter than what the numbers tell you... I’ve been a shooter my whole life, so what people say about me, I don’t really [pay attention]," he said.

"I put in work, I put in work every day. I wasn’t really missing [shots in my workout]. That’s how it really is. When I’m in this gym, I’m locked in and I feel like it’s all going to come to translate."

Hardy is listed by most mock drafts as a late first-round pick. The Wizards select 10th overall, higher than his expected range. If they drafted him, it would either be a situation where the mock drafts were wrong or if they traded back later in the first round.

Related: 2022 NBA Mock Draft 9.0: Where does Shaedon Sharpe slot after the NBA Combine?

Wherever he ends up, Hardy believes playing in the G-League was the right path for him to take en route to the NBA. A 5-star recruit coming out of high school, he turned down offers from major programs like Kentucky to play for Ignite. He feels good about that decision because he was able to adjust to the NBA's shot clock and to a faster pace while going up against NBA-level talent. He mentioned playing against Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, two prospects in the Warriors' organization.

Hardy also has an impressive group of mentors. Among them are LeBron James, the Lakers star who is affiliated with the Klutch Sports agency, which Hardy is now a part of. Hardy said he had a sitdown conversation with James, who knows his story in part because he played against James' son, Bronny, in high school.

Hardy said he has also worked out with Damian Lillard and former NBA MVP James Harden on multiple occasions. Harden gave him tips on how to create space and how to change speeds with the ball in his hands. Hawks star Trae Young is another player who has offered advice.

Hardy added to that list on Tuesday, as he ran into Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma in the training room at their practice facility in Southeast Washington.

"He already knew who I was. We’re both from Michigan, so we’ve got that Michigan connection. I was in there chopping it up with him," Hardy said of Kuzma. "He just told me to keep going. That’s all he told me. ‘Keep going, boy, I’ve been seeing you.’"

There are a few more Wizards connections for Hardy. Former Washington point guard Rod Strickland is the program director at G-League Ignite and helped advise him over the past season. And Hardy says he has long been a fan of Bradley Beal.

"That’s one of the people I was compared to in high school. Bradley Beal, I watch a lot of film on Brad. Being able to come here and be where he’s playing at right now, I feel like that’s exciting just knowing that he’s here," Hardy said.

Before working out for the Wizards, Hardy visited the Timberwolves, Bucks, Thunder and Warriors. Still on his schedule are the Hawks, Hornets, Pelicans and Mavericks.

Hardy seems like a sure bet to go in the first round. Maybe it will be to Washington where he could learn from Beal, the guy he has long been compared to.

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