PHOENIX — When the Cavaliers drafted Joe Harris they knew he was a pure shooter who couldn’t move his feet enough to play consistent defense or create his own shot.
But when he was comfortable, he could shoot. Unfortunately, an injury and his Sasha Pavolic-type defense meant Harris wouldn’t stick with the Cavs, but he might’ve found a home when he signed a two-year deal this offseason with the Brooklyn Nets.
Now, the Nets need players because it seems that every first-round draft pick they have until 2050 is going to Boston. Harris is trying to fight through the notion that he’s just a warm body to have on the court, while the Nets stumble to a high-lottery pick.
If Saturday night in Phoenix is any indication, he’s doing a pretty good job of becoming a viable NBA player. I could list his season averages of nearly 10 points a game and three rebounds in 23 minutes, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
LOOKING LIKE HE BELONGS
If you’ve ever struggled at something, you know that confidence is the key to getting better. The problem is that when you’re struggling, it’s hard to feel good about yourself and have the confidence needed to improve. The NBA is no different than our 9-to-5’s and confidence is key to hitting shots and making a contribution.
Saturday in Phoenix, it looked like Harris was comfortable for the first time in his NBA career.
Maybe it’s the lack of expectations that comes with playing for the Nets, or maybe his confidence is making him feel like he belongs in the NBA. I’m not a sports psychologist though, so let me tell you what I witnessed: Harris shot with the confidence of Steph Curry and nearly had the same results — as Harris went 5-of-8 from 3-point range and scored a career-high 19 points in the Nets’ 122-104 win.
It would be easy for me to state the obvious — the Suns are a horrible defensive team. But that wouldn’t be doing Harris justice. Harris is a key piece to a Nets team trying to claw back to respectability.
In three of the four Nets wins Harris has averaged more than 14 points and has scored more than 10 points four times. Now, these aren’t All-Star numbers, but for a team that is in need of scoring, Harris is providing a consistent, and dare I say clutch, outside presence.
Take Saturday as an example. Midway through the fourth quarter as the Suns cut a 12-point lead to four, Harris calmly swished a 27-foot three to put the Nets up by seven.
The Suns called a timeout, but could never regain the lead. While it’s true that the star of the game was former Arizona Wildcat Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, it was Harris who consistently hit shot-after-shot to extend the Nets’ lead and stop any momentum the Suns were building.
Even with the early success, the Nets are searching for an identity, and if they win 30 games it would be a shock.
Before the season, Las Vegas had the over/under for wins at 19.5 games. What typically happens with teams like the Nets is an implosion that engulfs all the progress that the team and players have made.
The Nets are known for their disastrous trades, so expect Brook Lopez to be gone and if Hollis-Jefferson continues to improve, he’ll be gone. So where does that leave Joe Harris?
Frankly, I don’t know, but he’s shown NBA teams that he is good enough to get another look.
If I had to predict, he’ll be a solid bench player for another five years and could be a contributor for a playoff team. Unfortunately, the Nets are not a playoff team and Harris, with his attractive contract, could be a throw-in on any trade the Nets decide to do.
Season prediction — 25 minutes per game, 10.5 ppg, 2 apg, 4 rpg.