In the first version of our mock draft, the Los Angeles Lakers’ lottery pick was projected to convey to the Memphis Grizzlies, but because that pick now lies in the top 10, it projects to convey to the New Orleans Pelicans. With that pick, the Pelicans select the G League Ignite’s Jaden Hardy.
In almost every draft, there’s at least one prospect that is selected quite a bit higher than the consensus on most mock drafts because of their potential more so than their actual production. An example of this from the 2021 NBA Draft is undoubtedly Stanford’s Ziaire Williams, and I think Jaden Hardy has a good chance to be this year’s “reach.”
If you paid any attention to the G League Ignite early in the season, then you may know that Hardy, who was once considered a consensus lottery player, got off to an unimpressive start. His decision-making was (and to a degree still is) questionable, he was inefficient from everywhere on the court except the free-throw line, and his defense was far from enough to make up for his offensive shortcomings. Despite the fact that the G League is a higher level of competition and player development looks different compared to the NCAA, many began to lose hope for Hardy.
Don’t look now, but like Jalen Duren, Hardy has turned a corner in the past couple of months and has looked much, much closer to the elite three-level scoring prospect that he was touted to be coming into the season. His overall efficiency has drastically improved, he’s shown some interesting playmaking chops, and his decision-making is quickly coming along. The improvement he’s shown since the beginning of the Ignite’s season has not gone unnoticed here, and while 8th overall is a bit too high for my personal liking, do not be surprised if he takes a big jump like this.
If Zion Williamson can remain healthy, the Pelicans will surely be a much better team next season. If David Griffin and Trajan Langdon want to take one last swing for the fences, this could be the pick to make. Hardy would have the opportunity to study under CJ McCollum and would not be forced to immediately take on a role that’s too demanding of him, which I think could be a win for the team and player. On the other hand, if the Pelicans want to go in a slightly more conservative direction, I think they’ll take a very serious look at Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji, who I think is still worthy of a top 10 pick.