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We Got Next: Devin and Marcus

All the usual caveats apply: Neither Devin Harris nor Marcus Williams is Jason Kidd. Neither is likely to be a Hall of Famer, like Kidd. Neither is likely to be compared to Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson, like Kidd. Harris might become an All-Star in the East...and Williams is young enough at 22 to do a lot of good things in the future...but not like Kidd.

And of course, the Nets are 3-6 since the Nets traded their franchise player, bringing Harris over from Dallas and giving Williams a chance to play more minutes. Still, both have played well in the time given them and Kidd's Mavs are only 4-5, one game better than the Nets, and neither team has beaten an opponent with a winning record.

And perhaps what matters most is that Harris, age 25, and Williams, only 22, have shown they can play well enough to be used in each other's place or in tandem. In fact, Lawrence Frank has shown a willingness to use Harris and Williams together. Against the Hornets on Friday night, the two of them were on the court together in the fourth quarter, as they tried in vain to get the score closer.

Post Trade Numbers

Player Games Minutes Shooting Pct. 3 Pt. Pct. Free Throw Pct. Points Per Game Assists Per Game Rebounds Per Game
Kidd 9 37.6 47.6% 61.1% 73.3% 11.3 10.0 6.4
Harris 5 33.8 41.0% 27.6% 80.0% 18.4 6.0 2.6
Williams 9 29.1 39.4% 46.3% 73.3% 11.5 5.9 3.4

In terms of raw data, the above table shows that the two have done well since the trade, again not as well as Kidd and there have been some shortfalls: Harris' three point shooting and Williams' defense the most prominent. Between them, they are averaging nearly 30 points per game, along with more than 11 assists and six rebounds. Each has had career highs over the past three weeks: Harris in three pointers made (4) and attempted (8) in a game; Williams in minutes (39) and assists (13) in a game. (The overall comparison is somewhat skewed by Harris missing the first four games after the trade, giving Williams a lot more minutes at the point immediately after Kidd left.)

They are obviously different players and playing them together presents some risks.

Harris is a speed merchant whose game on both ends of the court is defined by his athleticism. He could be the fastest player with the ball, end to end, in the NBA. His vertical leap was measured at 37" in the 2004 Pre-Draft camp. That athleticism and his 6' 8" wingspan permit him to play a lot bigger than 6' 3" both ends of the floor. As a result, he is also more of a combo guard, willing and wanting to score. That 18.4 ppg in his first five games is the highest for a Net point guard since 2002-03 when Kidd led the team with 18.7 ppg.

He is also a big game player, both in college and the NBA. His career regular season high is 25 points, but his NBA high is 30, against Steve Nash, in the Western Conference playoffs in 2006. He is also the only Net to start at point guard in an NBA Finals game.

But there have been some complaints. Since he hit his first six shots in his first game as a Net, Harris has used his new found freedom to fire up a lot of outside shots and he's gone cold since then, making just 26 of his 72 shots (36.1 percent). That's a dozen percentage points below his season average on arrival in New Jersey.

Frank is not yet willing to tighten the reins on Harris. As he said after that first game, "When you're making perimeter shots like he is, as fast as he is, that's a really hard cover. And then he made some great passes. . . . He really was special tonight."

Williams is more in the Kidd mold, but he does not play defense as well and is not as fast. He is a better distributor than Harris. Frank also says that lack of speed can be deceiving.

"Marcus is a great control push point guard," said Frank just before he inserted Harris in the starting lineup. "He’s probably in the mode, but not at the level of – don’t get me wrong because the guy was an MVP – of Chauncey Billups. You’re not going to see blazing pushes. But you’re going to see organizaed transition possessions. And he’s a very good pick-and-roll player."

And he can be quite the deep shooter with a more natural form than Harris.

His big problem has been inconsistency. In the four games where he played the point with Harris on the bench, he had two great games: 25 points and 4 assists against the Bulls and 8 points and 13 assists against the Pacers, both of which the Nets won. But sandwiched between them was a miserable 5 point, 4 assist game against the Pacers, which the Nets lost.

What's the future look like? Nets officials like the comparison between their two young points and Toronto's T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon, Ford being closer to Harris and Calderon closer to Williams. The comparison is, of course, neither as easy as it sounds....nor realistic at this point. The Raptors' pairing is a lot more accomplished. Oh, those caveats again.

Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger thinks the Nets like the twosome...but notes the whispers about Williams, who the Nets thought they stole in the 2006 draft.

"That's the paradigm," D'Alessandro wrote in his mail bag column this week when asked if Harris and Williams could become Ford and Calderon. "Whether Marcus holds up his end of the deal is a subject for debate, because you still run into a lot of scouts and execs who wonder whether he likes the game enough to be great, but you have to reserve judgment until (all together now) he gets through two or three years."

If not, there will be other teams willing to take a chance on a skilled young point guard.

Saturday night's game of course will be a big test. Harris will be trying to prove that the Mavs made a mistake in trading him and Williams will be trying to show Kidd--and Frank--that he was a solid student for a year and a half under Kidd.