Joe Harris is having a very underrated season. With all the attention to the “Big Three,” Harris averaging 15.0 points per game, a career high, to go along with a shooting line of 53/50/67, first two numbers all-times as well. His free throw shooting is down a bit from his career average of 77.5 and his attempts are low as well.
While Harris’ durability and consistency are among what makes him even more solid, it’s his 3-point shooting that’s exceptional, both this season and over his career. As of Monday, Harris is shooting 43.37 percent for his career, sixth all-time and third among active players with only the Curry brothers, Seth and Steph, ahead of him.
This season alone, he’s passed, among others, Kyle Korver, Steve Novak, Tim Legler and Jason Kapono on the list. He’s not that far behind Steph Curry, who’s shooting only six one-hundredth of a point better and is fifth All-Time. Curry of course has a lot more three’s but in terms of percentage they’re basically even.
This weekend, he even passed the Nets all-time leader, Drazen Petrovic, one of the five players above him on the all-time 3-point percentage list. As a Net, Harris is now shooting 43.8 percent, just above Petrovic’s final 43.7. Harris, per Basketball Reference. Specifically, Harris is now at 43.766 percent, Petrovic at 43.737. (Harris and Petrovic played for other teams before joining the Nets, Harris for the Cavaliers and Petrovic for the Blazers.)
In fact. Harris’ numbers are getting better, particularly since the James Harden trade, and not just in percentage. As Tom Dowd, the Nets in-house beat writer, pointed out, when Joe Harris led the NBA in 3-point percentage in 2018-19, he was 64th in the NBA in 3-pointers attempted, with 5.1 per game. That number went up to 5.9 last season, and through this season it’s up to 6.9, but it’s really over the last two weeks that Harris’ attempts have taken a huge leap. In those 11 games, through the loss to Philly, when he only shot two three’s
In that stretch, Harris has career high attempts twice, 12 against Miami on January 23, scoring 23 points in a win and 13 against Washington on February 3, scoring 30 points in a loss. The 30 points were also a career high. Harris acknowledges the role the “Big Three” have played in his recent success. He has the opportunities and he takes them.
“When these guys are coming off the ball, they’re such savvy offensive players, it’s usually because I have a little bit of space,” said Harris. “When I know that and I know that I have a little bit of space, the ball comes my way, it’s almost instantaneous that the shot’s going up. I’m not giving it a ton of thought. There’s not a lot of indecision there. The ball comes my way, I’ve got to let it fly. Make or miss, it’s good for us because it helps create a little bit more space for guys maybe the next time down and the following possession after that.”
There’s been consistency has Harris has upped his shooting. He’s shooting roughly the same percentage in the 11-game stretch as he is for the season... 49.4 percent during the stretch to 49.7 for the season so far. It plays out best when Harden and Harris are on the court together, with their combined 121.3 offensive rating, the Nets best other than Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Steve Nash has kept them together a lot playing the twosome 30 minutes a game, as Dowd noted.
“He’s an incredible player,” said Steve Nash of Harden. “I know we see his scoring and playmaking ability, but his intelligence is special, defensively as well. He sees it, he reads it, he has an understanding at that end of the floor as well. So I think he’s in a position where he’s grateful for this opportunity, he wants to win, and he’s willing to sacrifice, and so his leadership has been great. And as he plays himself into shape here, his production’s been amazing. He was conference player of the week. So he’s been incredible to add to our group and we’re fortunate to have him.”
“James is an elite-level scorer, an elite-level playmaker, an elite-level passer,” added Harris, telling Dowd, “So he’s putting guys in all the right places. A lot of that he does just by the way that he plays. He commands so much attention. He makes the right basketball plays, too. People are collapsing on him, he sees there’s a momentary lapse from the guy defensively. He exploits it, takes advantage of it and it benefits all the guys that are on the court with him.”
It’s been a long way for Harris, from the time Kenny Atkinson recruited him with the promise of making him the Nets’ Kyle Korver. As it turned out, Harris has even surpassed the shooting numbers of the player the Nets traded a fax machine for. Now, he has an opportunity to take things further.