Some things are just meant to be, and usually, what’s meant to be will always find a way.
Devin Harris playing basketball for the Dallas Mavericks is one of those things that can’t evade fate.
Entering his 15th season in the NBA and 10th with the Mavericks, it was a bit of a surprise when the front office brought Harris back for another season in Dallas last summer. The Mavericks added Dennis Smith Jr. to a stable of guards that included J.J. Barea and Yogi Ferrell, late of the All-Rookie Second Team.
But Harris was rock solid providing consistency, versatility and veteran savvy before the Mavericks swapped him in a three-team deal that netted Doug McDermott and a second round pick. In 44 games in Dallas, Harris played 18 minutes per night and averaged 8.5 points, two rebounds and two assists while shooting 35 percent from three. Additionally, Harris’ 16.6 points per 36 minutes were the highest since his 2010-11 campaign.
There’s no questioning who Harris is at this stage of his career. The days of the veteran consistently blowing by defenses and relentlessly attacking the paint are gone, but he shows glimpses of his speed from time to time. Rather, Harris’ value comes from his ability to do nearly everything good.
But at some point, the question must be asked: can Harris’ on court production keep up with his intangibles?
Harris was a valuable role player for the Mavericks last season. He was a key cog in a bench unit that mauled its counterparts, his 6.8 total net rating was the highest on the team, and the Mavericks owned a 109.6 offensive rating with Harris on the court compared to a 101.6 rating when he was off. That difference was the second highest on the team behind departed flamethrower Doug McDermott.
Had Yogi Ferrell stayed in Dallas, this all might be a moot point. But after Ferrell’s surprise departure, the Mavericks chose to bring back the veteran on a one-year deal. Even though it formed from a sudden vacancy, Harris might be a better option as a backup combo guard. His versatility allows him to play three positions on both ends of the floor, and his chemistry with J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowtizki should allow the bench unit to pick up where it left off last season.
Best case scenario
With a lack of proven commodities behind Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews, Harris’ versatility will be called upon once again. He won’t put up gaudy stats, but the success of the bench unit could hinge on Harris’ ability to handle the ball and guard multiple positions. Ideally, Harris won’t experience a significant dip in production, and in turn, the bench unit will show continuity from last season.
Harris’ statistical output will likely be about the same, so it would be surprising to see him surpass the marks he set last season. Even still, Harris’ value is shown through team metrics when he’s on the court versus off, and the best case scenario includes the team continuing to play well with Harris on the floor.
Worst case scenario
Harris will be 36 by season’s end, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Toward the end of last season in Denver, Harris pumped in double-digit points in 10 of the last 17 games. Father Time waits for no man, however. And it’s only a matter of time before Harris’ age causes his play to slip.
Injuries are always a concern for any player, but enduring an injury for a player with Harris’ history and mileage would be especially burdensome. He’s played in 70 or more games only five times in his 14-year career. Coming off two consecutive healthy off seasons, an injury-riddled season would be devastating for Harris, who has played the 10th most games all time as a Maverick.
Harris signed a one-year deal in the off season, and it seems plausible this could be his last season with the Mavericks and possibly the NBA. He’s apparently begun to weigh his future when he revealed he received more calls about coaching than he did an NBA contract this summer.
A consummate professional who has set the standard of what it means to be a Dallas Maverick, Harris will be sure to make the most of this season and beyond.