Brooklyn Nets: Joe Harris a free agent worth keeping

Brooklyn Nets Joe Harris. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Joe Harris. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets rescued Joe Harris from potential NBA oblivion when they signed him in the summer of 2016. He’s emerged as a key role player and an unrestricted free agent worth re-signing.

Joe Harris was out of the NBA when the Brooklyn Nets signed him to a bargain-basement two-year deal ($2.5 million and change) in July 2016.

A second-round pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Harris rode the Cleveland-to-Canton express to what is now known as the G-League for a season and a half before being dealt to the Orlando Magic in January 2016 in an exchange of heavily protected second-round picks.

Harris was then immediately waived by the Magic.

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He hadn’t put together much of a body of work in his NBA career to that point. He ws a bit player as a rookie with Cleveland, averaging 2.7 points in 9.7 minutes per game in 51 games with a slash line of .400/.369/.600 (just 9-for-15).

Harris hurt his foot early in his second season, playing in just five games and logging 15 minutes. He was 1-for-4 shooting, all from long range.

Even his shooting stats in his 21 D-League games didn’t inspire much confidence. He stroked it to the tune of .394/.291/.759 in those contests, while averaging 15.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 32.3 minutes per game.

But coming to the Nets in 2016 provided Harris with an opportunity he had lacked — a real place in a real rotation getting regular NBA minutes.

He thrived with the chance, averaging 8.2 points and 2.8 rebounds on .425/.385/.714 shooting in 21.9 minutes per game over 52 games.

That set the stage for an improvement last season. Harris shot a nifty .491/.419/.827 and put up 10.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game, appearing in 78 games and starting 14.

Where the improvement plays out more dramatically for Harris is in his per 36-minute numbers over his two years in Brooklyn. Last season, he scored almost two more points per 36 minutes on slightly fewer shots (11.5 per 36 in 2016-17, down to 11.3 last season).

He will never be confused with Gary Payton on the defensive end, but he’s serviceable enough and became a very important piece of the Brooklyn Nets rotation because of his ability to stretch the floor, while also adding an effective driving component to his repertoire last season.

Per NBA Advanced Stats, the player with the highest field-goal percentage (minimum of 100 attempts) on drives was Harris at 62.7 percent. For context, his former Cleveland teammate, LeBron James, was second at 60.3 percent.

Bringing Harris back is a priority for the Nets and Harris told Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) in April that he’s like to remain in Brooklyn:

"In my short experience in the NBA, this has been a very ideal fit just overall in terms of having the opportunity to play and all the great people that are within the organization. It’s hard to say the grass is greener on the other side or somewhere else."

The Nets have Early Bird rights on Harris, so they can’t go more than four years on any deal. Speculation on Harris’ value as an unrestricted free agent in Scotto’s April piece in The Athletic was somewhere between $4 million and $7 million per season, which is a number Brooklyn can handle.

The Nets will have roughly $17 million in cap space, according to projections, and Harris’ cap hold is just $1.49 million, per Hoops Rumors. The Nets could free up additional space by renouncing the $3 million cap hold for unrestricted free agent Randy Foye, who did not play last season after hitting the open market last summer.

On the surface this seems like an easy deal to do. Harris’ small cap hold allows Brooklyn to take care of other free agency matters and get to Harris after their done (Early Bird rights do allow the Nets to exceed the salary cap to retain the player).

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He wants to be here. The Nets would seem to want to keep him. This one should be pretty simple.