At the introductory press conference for (most) of the Nets new players last month, players were seated behind tables and reporters would gather around asking questions. The scene around Jeremy Lin's table was a mob scene. Next to his table was Joe Harris, who looked a bit lonely.
No real surprise, other than Justin Hamilton, signed out of Valencia in the Spanish league, the young sharpshooter,is probably the least known of the Nets 10 new players. And Hamilton was signed early in free agency. Harris was at the end, the Plan B replacement for Allen Crabbe.
So who is this guy with the very common name. An ordinary Joe or perhaps a gem, a diamond in the rough. Know this: he can shoot.
Harris played his college-ball at the University of Virginia. Harris helped lead the Virginia Cavaliers to their first outright regular season ACC title since 1981. He also helped lead Virginia to their first Elite Eight appearance since 1995. Harris was the ACC Tournament MVP to boot. In his four years in Charlottesville, Harris never shot worse than 38 percent from beyond the arc, And he wasn't afraid to take the big shot.
Take this game his junior year at UVA. Battling No. 3 Duke, Harris led the Cavaliers to an upset win, scoring 36 points on three's, post moves, garbage points. He knows how to put points on the board.
Harris, was drafted in the second-round in the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, continuing the Cavalier tradition. His shooting skills were among the best at the NBA Pre-Draft combine and he surprised scouts with his ability to create for himself off the dribble. But he fell for a number of reasons. He is not athletic. He has limited wingspan and as a fourth year senior he was fast closing in on this 23rd birthday.
The biggest issue with the lack of athleticism was his defense, Draft Express noted....
[T]he deciding factor for his NBA career likely comes down to the defensive side of the ball. His limited athletic skills put him at a disadvantage from the start, and he will need to prove he can compete on this end while not being a major liability.
Draft Express did say he worked hard at it.
Of course, things changed in Cleveland after the 2014 Draft. LeBron James came back and player development quickly took a back seat to winning it all. Harris got some burn his rookie year, playing in 51 games. In 9.7 minutes per game, he averaged only 2.7 points, but shot nearly 37 percent from three and 40 percent overall. He even started a game. The trade that brought J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland at the deadline also cut into his minutes.
Last season, he dropped even further back in the rotation, playing only 15 minutes in five games, before breaking his foot, which required season ending surgery. The same day he went under the knife, Cleveland traded him to Orlando in a cost-cutting move. Before all that, he did show he could still shoot during a 10-game stint with the Cavs D-League team, the Canton Charge. Harris averaged 16.4 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three. Here's video of his best game, scoring 31 points last November.
It probably didn't hurt his career prospects that Trajan Langdon, then a Cavs executive with responsibility for the D-League, preceded him to Brooklyn, where he's now assistant GM.
So what are his prospects?
"I think it's a necessary need on most teams nowadays with guys spacing the floor and being able to shoot the ball," Harris told YES at the press conference. "You can always use guys that can shoot, that's what I do, that's why I'm here. Hopefully I can carve out a little bit of a niche, being able to space the floor and also showing my ability to defend."
The Nets also like his underappreciated skill as setting up teammates from the 2.
Then, there's that character thing. He's a coach's kid. "I grew up around the gym from the time I was a four year old kid," Harris said. "I was kind of the manager for his teams, just grew up going to the gym being around the game. I wouldn't have the love for the game if it wasn't for him being the coach and being around the game."
Harris also mentioned how a player like Kyle Korver, who has a similar body and skill-set to his, flourished in Kenny Atkinson's system in Atlanta... and how he hopes to be able to grow into being a player like that.
"That's definitely a goal for me as a player," Harris said. "You see a guy like Korver --especially with him coming from coach Kenny's system in Atlanta and his familiarity with him. He's seen Korver in his development. and the progression of the player that he is right now. It's extremely impactful for me."
Harris said that Atkinson talked to him about Korver's attention to detail specifically how he takes care of his body, gaining strength. Short of that, of course, Harris could fill in nicely for Bojan Bogdanovic at the 2, even play a bit with him. Brooklyn lacked a consistent three-point shooter last year, so if Harris could provide any type of help in that area it would be much needed and appreciated.
Harris said he'd be willing to do some time with the Long Island Nets, if necessary.
The Nets had Korver, of course, taking him at No. 51 in the 2003 NBA Draft, then selling him to Philly (and Billy King) for $125,000, part of which was used to purchase a really neat copying machine. You'd hope they'll have better luck with Harris.