3 first round picks Dallas Mavericks rookie Jaden Hardy is already outperforming

Dallas Mavericks, Jaden Hardy
Dallas Mavericks, Jaden Hardy / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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First-round pick Dallas Mavericks rookie Jaden Hardy is outperforming: 2. Ochai Agbaji

The Cavaliers used the final lottery selection of the 2022 NBA Draft to draft Agbaji, and he has struggled out of the gate. The 22-year-old has not found consistent minutes, but he has played in Cleveland’s last five contests where he has averaged 6.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 17.0 minutes each night.

Agbaji has a negative-4.3 box score plus-minus after his first 21 NBA games, and he sits at negative-0.1 in value over replacement player (VORP). Hardy is actually slightly worse in those advanced metrics, but that does not take into his account his G League contributions. Agbaji played nine games in the G League where he averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 0.9 blocks in 31.9 minutes per game.

Fans should not label any 2022 draft pick as a bust just yet. It takes some players longer than others to figure things out at the NBA level. It has been a rough start to Agbaji’s career, but there is still plenty of time to turn things around. He must improve his defense and outside shooting, while just learning how to impact the game.

Jaden Hardy has outplayed Ochai Agbaji halfway through their rookie seasons, but it will be years before fans can debate who was better. Jaden Hardy will only get better from here. The organization loves his aggressiveness and scoring ability, but he must improve his shot selection and decision-making. Agbaji has plenty of talent, but can he transform into a 3-and-D wing on a playoff team? It is too early to tell, but Hardy has a slight edge in production thus far.