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Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe: A good competition to have

Brooklyn Nets Media Day Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The 2018 off-season was an eventful one for the Brooklyn Nets and their fans. Sean Marks did a good job shaping the Nets for the future. The Nets stockpiled future draft picks via the trade route while increasing their cap space to an estimated $84 million for the 2019 off-season. This can translate to two max contracts and a blueprint to a possible superteam.

But despite all that high-profile activity, arguably the best signing Brooklyn made this off-season was bringing back Joe Harris on a two-year $16 million deal. It came to no surprise when Brooklyn quickly re-signed Harris only a couple hours into NBA free agency.

Some saw it as a real bargain.

On Monday, Harris explained his reasoning why he likes his fit with the Nets.

“Obviously, I know kind of where my strengths lie – shooting the ball, moving without the ball. Trying to be opportunistic with finishing, finishing at a high rate. But I’m trying to improve in all facets, I’m not going to do anything a whole lot different. I’m not going to be handling the ball a bunch or facilitating or do anything like that.”

Now, the question is how will Kenny Atkinson integrate Harris and Allen Crabbe who has much the same skill set. Crabbe, 26, may be a little more athletic and a better defender, but Harris, 27, has been the more consistent. The two top returning Nets in three-point shooting, with Harris hitting 41.9 percent and Crabbe 37.8. And in the final two months of the season, they both upped their game, Harris leading the NBA after the All-Star Break at 47.1 percent and Crabbe hitting 41.7 percent.

Crabbe hopes that he can get a better start that he did last season.

“Yeah. In general, I know what I can do. I know where my shots are going to come from within the offense.” he told reporters after the first day of practice Tuesday, adding that the Nets are planning some wrinkles to the system. “We’re throwing new things out there, trying to get defenses mixed up. I think the biggest thing for me is just my mindset. It’s not about my teammates or anybody else. I think it just starts with me and just approaching the game with aggressiveness and I think it will take care of itself from there.”

The Nets have a good number of new faces on their roster for the 2018-19 season especially in their front-court. We can expect the Nets to push the ball down low more often and an increase in rebounding on both ends of the floor. It should open up more opportunities for the two, both of whom are spot-up geniuses. Crabbe made 64 percent last season, Harris 47 percent. That put them in the 94th and 89th percentile of all NBA players. (DeMarre Carroll shot 39.4 percent, putting him in the 59th percentile.)

Of course, both Crabbe and Harris play a majority of their minutes at the shooting guard position. In fact, Crabbe only played at the 2 last season for Brooklyn. Despite all their similarities, there are differences.

Harris has proven he is a well-rounded offensive player; not just a consistent sharpshooter from behind the arc. On the other hand, Crabbe favors to shoot from behind the arc and deep mid-range. Both players are expected to light up the scoreboard from behind the arc.

Crabbe and Harris have played on the court together last season. When on the court together, Crabbe plays at the 2 while Harris plays the wing position. Normally, Crabbe spreads the floor by moving around behind the three-point line while Harris hovers around the deep mid-range area. When both players are on the court, this gives their point guard more options to facilitate the offense around.

With Harris being more well-rounded on the offensive end, he can kick the ball out to Crabbe off a drive play. Crabbe on the other hand can make a quick pass to Harris. This means when both players are on the floor, Harris would be able to give Crabbe more open looks than he can give Harris based on his offensive play style.

To that end, Crabbe has said much of his work is focused on improving his ball-making and decision-making. “I’ve watched a lot of film.”

Now, Crabbe is not just a strict three-point shooter. He does play his best offensive behind the arc but has shown mid-range shooting is a confident weapon in his offensive arsenal. Crabbe did shoot .461 from mid-range last season.

If Crabbe can spread his offensive game past the three-point line more often, not only will that make him more of a difficult guard for defenders but it can open up bigger holes for outside shooters, including Harris.

It is clear, the duo of Crabbe and Harris will have a heavier impact on the offensive end of the floor but what about on the defensive end?

The Nets defense last season was the main reason why Brooklyn would lose late in close games. It is clear that the frontcourt defense was the biggest concern but their guard defense was not far off.

In regards to Harris and Crabbe, they have their differences on the defensive end of the floor. Harris is one of the best 3-and-D players on the Nets roster. He does a great job spacing himself and his guard and keeping an eye on outside movement. Harris plays great help defense especially down low.

Crabbe on the other hand, defense is not quite a strong area for him. He commonly has opposing players blow past him. He does not play tight defense and commonly gives his guard room to facilitate the ball. The biggest worry regarding Crabbe’s defense is late in the game. He can lose focus late in the game on the defensive end of the floor. Overall, Crabbe plays average defense compared to his backcourt teammates.

During the 2018-19 Brooklyn Nets preseason press conference, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson commented on how he wants Crabbe to take a big step on defense.

“ I think he’s realizing what he can do. He’s taken a step defensively too. He’s going to have to do it more consistently. That’s his quest this year.”

If the duo of Crabbe and Harris can play consistently on both ends of the floor while on the court with each other, both ends of the floor will run more smoothly.

Now, with the additions of Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried, and Jared Dudley, there is a chance Atkinson may want only Crabbe or Harris on the floor and not at the same time. Davis and Faried are likely to primarily play the traditional 4 but Dudley can play a stretch 4. The 10-year veteran has been a consistent three-point shooter over his lengthy NBA career. He has a career average of .396, the 15th best among active NBA players. The two directly in front of him: Harris and Crabbe.

Atkinson may lean towards having an all-around lineup due to the production on both ends of the floor. Despite this option, it is very likely we will see both Crabbe and Harris on the floor together in 2018-19. If this duo can play consistently together, the Nets will become a dangerous three-point shooting threat team.