Joe Harris is a Brooklyn Reclamation Project (That should be the title of the ESPN 30 for 30 on the Sean Marks regime). After 56 games in his first two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Harris was an NBA afterthought. His signing with the Nets was a bit of a surprise – coming off of a foot injury and an unimpressive pro career.
His production, even in the D-League was lackluster. Harris shot 39% from the field and 29% from three with the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate. Last summer, Kenny Atkinson wanted Harris “to be our Kyle Korver.” Those were lofty expectations for a player that barely made a ripple in the NBA Ocean.
"He was like that battered doe you find in the forest," Atkinson recalled. "He had no confidence."
Harris proved his worth this season and found that confidence. He played more minutes and started more games as a Net than his two seasons in Cleveland. Harris also bested his career numbers in every category. Solid but unspectacular, Harris averaged 8.2 points in 21.9 minutes per game, and was second in the Nets in three-point percentage (38.5%).
Here’s a look at Harris’ shot chart…
Harris’ shooting efficiency should be commended. He shot at or above league average at every perimeter spot. Not only did Harris make a lot of threes, he shot them in bunches as well. 61% of all of Harris’ field goals came from beyond the arc. While he only shot 42.5% from the field, Harris’ propensity for shooting triples propelled him to the second highest eFG% on the team, 54.3%.
Let’s dive deep into Harris’ offensive end strengths, and his progression as a shooter…
Catch and Shoot/Spot Up
Spot-up shooting was Harris’ bread and butter in 2016-2017 (as is the case for most shooters.) Synergy Sports ranked him in the 80th percentile of all spot-up shooters, scoring 1.12 points per possession. The simple ability to catch and shoot consistently from three was rare for the Nets – a team that launched plenty of threes, but ranked 26th in the league in 3pt%. Harris shot a respectable 39.5% off of catch and shoot attempts, which converted to a 58.2% effective field goal %, per NBA.com.
Above, Harris drills a three against the Indiana Pacers off a Randy Foye dish. He shows a quick, smooth release, shooting before the long arms of Paul George contests the shot fully. Also, at the beginning of the clip, the Nets run their typical half court set that involves a shooter (Harris) streaking to the top of the three-point arc after two screens. Harris squares up nicely, but decides to run pick and roll with Trevor Booker, eventually swinging the ball to Foye.
Time for real basketball nerd stuff. Notice Harris’ footwork and rhythm leading up to the shot. Rhythm may be the most important aspect in consistent shooting. Rhythm essentially makes the difference between a practice sharpshooter and in-game assassin. Here, Harris steps into the shot off of a perfect feed from Foye. It can be broken up into a 3 count. At 1, Harris puts his right foot forward, squares to the basket, anticipating the pass. At 2, he catches the ball at his waist, and brings his left foot forward. At 3, Harris fires away. 1…2…3…3-pointer! (That was corny.)
Here’s another Harris spot up three, this time off a Caris LeVert cross-court pass…
As evidenced by his shot chart, Harris’ hot spot from the perimeter was the right corner. Again, rhythm plays a big part in his shot, but the cadence is a little different in the short corner. With Danilo Gallinari looming, Harris gets shot off quickly. Take a look…
One takeaway from Harris’ perimeter game is his constant preparedness to fire a shot, squared to the basket. Harris squares his feet and body to the basket as soon as Spencer Dinwiddie passes the ball, this time with his left foot as the anchor. Harris catches, drags his right foot into shooting position and launches.
The next clip is a carbon copy of Harris’ three against the Nuggets. Notice how Harris is already in position for the catch before (former Net) Bojan Bogdanovic fires the fast break pass. The motion can be broken down into catch, plant, load, and shot.
While Harris showed proficiency as a spot-up shooter, he was mediocre shooting off of screens. Harris shot 39.6 and 36.2% off screens and handoffs respectively, per Synergy Sports, ranking him in the 46th and 51st percentile. Harris peruses the perimeter well – energetically sprinting to spots, and careening with conviction.
Here’s a miss against the Golden State Warriors…
Harris cuts along the three-point line, receiving a down screen from Justin Hamilton. He receives the handoff pass from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but his shot clanks off the rim. Credit Andrew Iguodala for a strong closeout on the shot. Again, look at Harris’ footwork. Rather than a 1-2-shot rhythm, he jumps into the shot, speeding up the release. Unfortunately, that did not yield three points.
Here, the Nets run a mirror image of the previous play. Harris receives the handoff pass – and nice screen – from Trevor Booker. Wilson Chandler is deterred, so Harris earns an extra split second to make a decision. He steps into the shot and squares to the basket. In the process, he dips the ball to his left, rather than straight down. The shot hits back rim and misses.
The Nets run the same action again – but to different results. Harris receives another pass and screen from Booker, with Tyler Johnson chasing quickly behind. Harris takes one dribble, plants with his right foot, squares and shoots. Made basket. Here, he used one dribble to find rhythm and set his feet for the shot.
Rhythm, balance and footwork are crucial for a shooter. J.J. Redick and Kyle Korver are prime examples of that. Harris should look to improve his consistency and rhythm when shooting after off-ball movement, especially with the halfcourt sets the Nets frequently run.
Harris, like many Nets, showed marked progress throughout the season. At the beginning of the season, Harris would drive from the three-point line, but to little success. He turned the ball over 13% of the time, simply losing handle on the ball or challenging longer and athletic big men at the rim. While Harris shot a decent 54.1% at the rim, he often was blocked or seemed lost. However, Harris saw a slight improvement after the New Year, cutting his turnover % to 8.8%. Despite that, his ability to create off the dribble and finish at the rim is still under construction.
Above, Harris loses the ball when dribbling from the corner. He’s able to reach the restricted area, but has the ball poked away.
Harris takes a simple straight line drive to the rim – leading to a charge.
This is better. Rather than jaunting to the rim on a straight line drive, he pauses for a second – enough to stun James Johnson into anticipating the pick and roll pocket pass to Booker. Hassan Whiteside is ball watching and Justin Hamilton is open from three, draining the shot.
Joe Harris lacks the first step and explosion to be a super scorer at the rim. And that’s fine! He may need to add more to his dribble game, after mostly takin line drives. While the Nets’ offense did not embrace the midrange shot, Harris could add that wrinkle to his game. He attempted only 34 shots from midrange all season – and took 221 threes. A pump fake, two dribbles and shot from inside the arc could optimize Harris’ shooting ability, rather than empty drives.
Joe Harris is an NBA player. While he may not be a long-term starter, perimeter shooting is welcome anywhere. Harris showed much better production as a reserve, shooting 40% from three off the bench compared to 31% as a starter, and also showing improved offensive and defensive ratings off the bench.
Harris was named a “Luke Walton All Star” by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, with Lowe praising Harris’ shooting and effort. His stat lines may not have been explosive (his season high was 19 points), but Harris was consistent all year. Consistent production may be all that’s needed for a reserve – especially on a team that struggled scoring when Harris went down with a shoulder injury and concussion to end his campaign.
Harris may not be Kyle Korver, but the influences are there. Take a look at this Korver three. Then look at one of the many Harris clips above.
I’ve called Joe Harris “Second Form Kyle Korver.” But whether that’s Harris’ final form is still unknown. Like many Nets, Sean Marks will decide whether to retain Harris by June 30. He will be on the books for less than next year’s veteran minimum. While Joe Harris may have some noticeable areas of improvement in his offensive game, his consistent shooting may benefit the Brooklyn Nets. It’s about reclamation!