“Joe Harris…book it,” Ian Eagle has said quite often and with relish over the past season and a half of Nets basketball. When the Virginia product puts up a long-range shot, there’s an even chance you’ll hear one of Eagle’s signature calls. Harris has turned into one of the best role players in all of basketball in Brooklyn with an ability to maneuver around screens and knock down shot after shot from beyond the arc.
What started as a hot streak from three has transformed Harris into arguably the most efficient high usage three-point shooter in the NBA . Harris, in the first year of a two-year deal worth $16 million, has become a bargain in the eyes of many - due to the fact that he is shooting better than 46% from three this season, which is the best in the league for players that have shot more than 200 3’s to date.
Harris is shooting at an absurd 48 percent from three on catch-and-shoot situations, per NBA.com’s tracking data, which is decimal places behind Buddy Hield for the league lead among wing players. He does a great job of squaring up and using his entire lower frame to explode through his shot and finish the play. Harris’ three-point shooting has been so recognized by the Nets faithful that the organization has been pushing for Harris to make the mid-season shootout with a campaign video that has gone viral.
The above play is an end of the game play that is really just a small deviation from a typical play the Nets run for their sharpshooter time and time again. Above is a play ran for Harris, which is masked as a pick-and-roll for Spencer Dinwiddie, but really is just trying to free up Harris.
However, there is more to Harris than being a dead-eye shooter. Harris has recognized that teams are overcommitting to him shooting a three, thus freeing him up to find ways to get to the rim and finish upon arrival to the net. Harris takes 51 percent of his shots beyond the arc, but he also takes 28 percent of his shots within three feet of the basket and is converting at an uber efficient 61% clip.
Watch below for a similar play of this off-ball action to free up Harris for a three, that he then takes right to the rim for an easy two.
This play is a key cog in the Nets offense, Harris is always the beneficiary of off-ball screens, such as the play above and the play in Charlotte, they are all just variations of the same theme. Now, Harris has the strength to not just catch and pull it from three, he is taking it to the rim.
Harris didn’t even have to ball-fake off the catch, as he already had a clear step on his defender for the bucket and the foul. His defender on the above play, Garrett Temple, has to go over the incoming Jarrett Allen screen in order to stop Harris from getting an open look from beyond the arc, but in doing so, Harris has Temple chasing him from behind opening up an easy lane to the hoop.
That screen set above the three-point line by Allen is also great awareness by the second-year big. Allen brings his defender, Marc Gasol, right below the three-point line in no mans land. Gasol has to either slide over and take on Harris, opening up Allen for an easy roll, or get back to the diving Net, leaving Harris open for the easy finish. Kenny Atkinson’s system is tailored to the Nets strengths, and its simple actions such as the one above highlights the Nets ability to find specific players in specific positions ready to put the ball in the hoop.
Harris has become aware of the impact he has on the floor and is not afraid to take it to the rack, posting an average of more than 7 drives per game this season, up from 4.5 last season. The Nets offense has taken a step forward this year, there is more of a rhythm to the offense as the ball bounces around crisp compared to the year prior and it is being shown in the win’s column.
Harris’ driving numbers are a microcosm of the Nets offense. It is not just about taking as many three’s as they can because that is the direction the league is going; it is about finding the best, highest percentage shot possible, which for Harris is no longer a three off the catch. He has the ability to find an even better shot by using his step advantage to get to the rim and either lay it in, or dump it off to, say, the roll man diving down.
The Nets run Harris off screens all the time, and now he has the confidence to take it inside or hit a rolling big man for an easy bucket as teams continue to commit more and more to the deadeye shooter. This is a similar situation as the above Memphis clip, but a different result.
While much has been written about D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie’s emergence as the two primary ball handlers of this red-hot Brooklyn team, Harris has been the steadying force all season for this team. Harris is in a perpetual state of motion, looking for openings and spots to throw the defense out of sorts. The Nets run Harris far more than any other player on the team. Harris runs about 1.39 miles per game according to NBA’s player tracking data, which is right on par with other off-ball shooters like Hield and Klay Thompson, two comparables for Harris at least on offense.
This kind of action is common in today’s league who are trying to free up their perimeter-oriented wings, and Harris has the gravity on the floor to attract a great deal of attention from the opposition, and the Nets have been able to become a stronger offensive club because of that. The impact of Harris’ three-point ability has opened up lanes for other players, but also him. Watch below as Bruce Brown Jr. commits to Harris when he becomes one pass away.
It is plays like this that don’t get noticed by many but stands a testament to Harris’ impact on the floor. The Nets offense produces more than 109 points per 100 possessions when Harris is on the floor and slips to 105 points per 100 possessions when he is off. Since December 1, that number has been even more pronounced with the Nets offense posting 112.9 points per 100 possessions when Harris is on vs. 103.3 when he is off.
Russell and Harris have played a lot together for obvious reasons: the two have started in the backcourt for most of the season, but over the past month they have taken it to another level. Since January 1, Harris and Russell have shared the floor 223 minutes of the Nets 12 games and are a +63 in that court time. Russell, who has seemingly turned the corner as a potential All-Star over the past month has been playing with some extra pep in his step and Harris has been a main beneficiary. Russell’s ability to create out of the pick-and-roll has led to secondary action for Harris that gets him a great look from three.
The two have been fantastic together. The Nets defense is allowing 102 points per 100 possessions during those 223 minutes, a sign of solid development for this team. Russell and Harris look to be two parts of the Nets future and the fact that Atkinson is seeing positive returns is an exciting sign for the team’s future.
The Nets have dug themselves out of the depths of the NBA’s basement. The success stories that the developmental team have conceived in Brooklyn are quite remarkable with the likes of LeVert, Dinwiddie, Russell, among several other players finding themselves in All-Star conversations as well as Most Improved debates. However, Harris talk gets glossed over quite a bit. His numbers aren’t flashy, but followers of Brooklyn know that there is no more consistent player on the Nets roster than #12.
Like the Nets team as a whole, Harris goes about his business and continues to impress. Will he be added to the three-point contest in Charlotte for All-Star Weekend? He rightfully deserves to be. It’s unclear, but similar to the Joe that proceeded Harris in Brooklyn — Joe Johnson— the quiet bucket getter doesn’t say much just lets his game do the talking.
All Stats used are not including Brooklyn’s game against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, January 29.