Mavericks' unexpected secret weapon for playoffs emerges at perfect time

Dallas Mavericks, Jaden Hardy
Dallas Mavericks, Jaden Hardy / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

After coming off perhaps their most season-defining performance of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks have taken a 3-2 series lead over the LA Clippers with loads of momentum behind them to close the series out on Friday night in Dallas.

The Mavericks put together their most complete performance of the series, as Luka Doncic was able to overcome an illness and nagging knee sprain to post his most efficient offensive performance of the series.

The Mavericks still have to take care of business in Game 6 of course, but all signs are pointing toward the Mavericks advancing to the second round to play the Oklahoma City Thunder after how defiantly the Mavericks beat the Clippers on the road. If Dallas does get the opportunity to play the Thunder in the second round, then the Mavericks may have to dig a little bit deeper into their toolbox compared to their series versus the Clippers.

Jaden Hardy emerges as secret weapon at perfect time

Perhaps this could involve playing Jaden Hardy more, as the 21-year-old guard made a case for some playing time at the end of Dallas' Game 5 blowout victory by posting 14 points on 5-8 shooting from the field in the last six minutes of the contest. We've seen how desperately the Mavericks could use a tertiary shot-creator and playmaker in their playoff rotation throughout times in this series against the Clippers, as the Mavericks have had trouble creating offense from their bench in a few instances during this series, particularly in Games 1 and 4.

Hardy could certainly be the remedy to Dallas' call for a third initiator, as he's continually played well in garbage time recently and played solid down the stretch of the regular season when he was still at the fringes of Dallas' main rotation. With the Thunder having a far more dynamic array of point-of-attack defenders compared to the Kawhi-less Clippers, it wouldn't be surprising if Hardy emerges as a secret weapon in a hypothetical Mavs-Thunder series based on Hardy's immense potential.

However, as promising as Hardy has looked in limited opportunities recently, Mavericks' head coach Jason Kidd would be remiss to not stick with his current 8-9 man playoff rotation that has put the Mavericks in a position to close the Clippers out in Game 6 at home tonight. That's not to say Hardy won't emerge as a potential cog in Dallas' rotation during these playoffs, but it goes without saying that the likes of Dante Exum or Josh Green would need to continue to play poor offensively in the playoffs for Hardy to get a crack at the rotation.

The pending health of Tim Hardaway Jr. could also be an attributing factor toward Hardy gaining a role in the Mavericks' playoff run, but Kidd has been reluctant to open up the Mavericks' main rotation against the Clippers any further than it already was before Hardaway Jr. suffered an ankle sprain in Game 2.

Mavericks fans should keep their tabs open with Hardy in these playoffs, as he's proving that he's ready for the limelight in only his second season. However, whether or not he will see an opportunity in these playoffs is up for debate when one takes into consideration the marginal dip in shooting efficiency that Hardy suffered during the early parts of the regular season that kept him out of Dallas' main rotation.

For more on Jaden Hardy and the Dallas Mavericks, stay tuned as we will have you covered throughout the entirety of Dallas' run in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.