Last season we learned a lot about where the Dallas Mavericks are on their journey back to relevancy. There were two noticeable takeaways:
- The Dallas Mavericks are in need of higher quality wings.
- The Dallas Mavericks might be closer to “Win-Now” than we would have guessed last fall.
Thanks to the superstardom of Luka Doncic, the Mavericks were home to the league’s best offense — ever. Yet somehow, there were clear ways they could improve. So now as we comb through a sped up free agency period, why shouldn’t the Mavericks set their sights on more offensive firepower? Let’s start with Joe Harris.
Harris, who just completed his sixth year in the league, has turned himself into one of the league’s premiere shooters over the last several seasons. His growth over the last four seasons with the Brooklyn Nets has taken him from second round scrub to bona fide starter.
Last season Harris started all 69 games for the Nets, averaging 14.5 points, four rebounds and two assists per game while shooting 42 percent from three. Over the last three seasons, among players that attempted at least 350 three pointers, Harris has ranked:
- 2019-20: Fourth in the league (42 percent on 407 attempts)
- 2018-19: First in the league (47 percent on 386 attempts)
- 2017-18: Eighth in the league (42 percent on 358 attempts)
While the volume is not the same as stars in the league, Harris’ prowess as a shooter is clear, and it’s what has made him someone to watch in free agency. Having just finished a two-year, $16 million contract with the Nets, he hits the open market looking to cash in.
It would be easy to look at Harris’ three point shot and see nothing else. It is no doubt his greatest attribute. Elite teams need players like Harris, guys that are active and can contribute without needing the ball in his hands. Last season Harris showed that, connecting on 45 percent of his catch and shoot threes.
For players like Harris it becomes vital they lean not just on a quick release, but decision making as well. Constantly moving along the perimeter, rotating to gaps off penetration, and attacking overzealous closeouts, Harris has shown he’s more than just a jump shot. It’s that kind of basketball IQ that has made him a starter level wing.
‘Active’ really is the best way to describe his game on both ends. Harris may not be a shot creator or an iso-playmaker, but he stays engaged off the ball and has shown flashes of vision in the lane. He may not be a defensive stopper, but he has active hands and is willing to get underneath perimeter players to disrupt passing lanes.
At 29-years-old, Harris is in the midst of his prime. His game won’t be evolving or growing more from where he is now, but many teams would also hope to have a little more ball handling or playmaking from a starting wing. Harris can mostly provide this off the weakside.
He is listed at 6’6 and 220 pounds — solid size for a wing. But of the 50 guards that started at least 50 games last season, Harris came in at 26th in rebounds per game (56th among forwards, according to NBA.com).
While he isn’t a turnover factory, his nearly 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio isn’t ideal for someone who doesn’t have the ball in his hands for long. By comparison Tim Hardaway Jr., whose usage was three percent higher than Harris’ last season, had 35 fewer turnovers and just seven fewer assists (a nearly 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio).
Fit with the Mavericks
Imagining Harris’ flamethrower catching kickouts from Luka Doncic should make you drool. He attempted just 73 corner threes last season, but connected on 52 percent of them. This combined with his activity off screens would add a dimension that the already lethal Mavericks offense would welcome.
Rick Carlisle was forced for stretches last season to play musical chairs with his starting lineup, relying on matchups and hot hands to fill in gaps and injuries. After Dwight Powell’s midseason departure to recover from a torn Achilles, the Mavericks found a rhythm with Kristaps Porzingis moving to center, Dorian Finney-Smith bumping up to the four, and Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. flanking on the wing. But this wasn’t a permanent fix, made apparent in their playoff series. In fact, Carlisle opted to bring Curry off the bench against the Los Angeles Clippers, due to the massive size disadvantage the Mavericks faced going up against big wings like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Marcus Morris.
That issue goes away a bit with a player like Harris. Whether he’s playing shooting guard or small forward — alongside Hardaway and/or Finney-Smith — he has the size and shooting skill to play either. While you wouldn’t get a defensive boost in isolation, Harris is a serviceable team defender and at the very least you wouldn’t be giving up size and length as you would with the Mavericks’ many undersized guards.
Will he be a Dallas Maverick?
In short, it’s unlikely. The Nets have captured their big fish who spent last season recovering from injuries. Now their sights are correctly set on re-signing Harris and making decisions on other pieces.
The market for Harris has been projected to be in the $14-16 million per year range. A fair price for someone who could be one of the best floor spacers in the league. All signs point to a return to Brooklyn being mutual for both sides.
For a team like the Mavericks to steal Harris away they’d need to overpay. Assuming Tim Hardaway Jr. opts into the final season of his contract the Mavericks won’t have the cap space without moving other contracts. If Harris wants to be in Dallas the front office would make it happen — unfortunately nothing so far points to that happening.