There are plenty of questions regarding the complementary pieces currently on the Brooklyn Nets. Of them, Joe Harris provides a simple answer.
There is a serious debate to be had about this upcoming summer being as important, if not more, than the previous for the Brooklyn Nets. Because when the team takes the court for the first time in the 2020/21 NBA season, once the ball is inevitably thrown up sky-high by an NBA official signaling the start of a new basketball year, the Nets will be in the business of contending for a title.
And as we know, to win a title, you have to deploy the correct personnel to make dreams a reality. This means that the Nets have to be sure that the complementary pieces they sign under contract give them the best chance to contend. There are concerns about some of their rotational pieces now, but Joe Harris is not one of them.
You know what he is as a shooter, one of the most efficient marksmen to ever grace an NBA floor. His career three-point shooting percentage of 42.3 percent acts as a testimony to such a bold statement. He led the league last season in three-point percentage (47.4 percent) and is once again in the top-10 amongst players with at least five or more attempts from distance per contest this year.
He moves fluidly without the rock, hoisting up 4.5 catch and shoot triples a contest where he shoots an efficient 43.1 percent.
With how Kenny Atkinson schemes offensively, using bigs to screen off-ball to free up perimeter threats, those looks are going to be there for Harris. Hell, Jarrett Allen is 11th in the NBA in screen assists (4.1), and not far behind him is fellow-teammate and big, DeAndre Jordan (3.5).
Then you also have to account for opposing defenses having to fret over the two-headed monster that will be Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. So when opportunities surely arise for Joey Buckets to knock down an open perimeter look off the catch, there aren’t many in the game that is as effective as him in doing so.
If the perimeter shot isn’t there, he’s developed a respectably-rounded offensive repertoire. On 6.5 drives per game (fourth on the team) he’s shooting 48.2 percent and is averaging 0.6 assists to 0.4 turnovers—which is not bad for a player that isn’t necessarily a playmaker.
He’s also shooting 63.3 percent at the rim on 180 attempts. To put that into perspective, Kyle Korver only attempted 32 shots at the rim in his 2014/15 All-Star season. Again, more than a shooter.
But what you may not have known is that he’s been surprisingly serviceable on the other end of the floor. Though Harris has never been one to take plays off defensively, you can almost always see him fighting through an off-ball screen or giving it his all to stay in front of quicker guards and force tough looks, the metrics have rarely been in favor.
Especially his pick-and-roll stats when guarding the ball-handler in such actions—currently ranking in the 6th percentile defensively there. But I digress…
Just a season ago, Harris ranked 65th in the NBA amongst small forwards in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus. However, there are intangibles and factors you have to acknowledge in his drastic turnaround I’m about to mention. The Nets were a middle-of-the-pack defense a season ago, ranking 15th in defensive rating (per NBA Stats). This year they’re ninth in that regard.
But with that being said, going from 65th in 2018/19 to 18th in 2019/20 is no small feat. Am I saying throw Harris on the opponents’ best wing on a nightly basis? No. Please don’t. But anything beyond “not-a-liability” on that end is a plus.
Lastly, though there isn’t a metric to back my point, by all accounts, he’s been a great locker room presence. That shouldn’t act as the be-all and end-all in terms of handing out an extension or not, but having a mediator in a locker room with a team that will likely be under plenty of media scrutiny with their polarizing stars is just an added bonus.
The Nets do have his bird rights, meaning they can go over the salary cap to re-sign him, so there really is no excuse to allow him to walk this impending free agency—even with a weaker crop of FA’s this summer. And replacing his contributions to the team isn’t a simple task, as he is the perfect complementary piece now and moving forward.