While writing my latest fantasy basketball column for The Basketball Jones (PLUG!), I mention that Devin Harris’ assists production has been fairly prodigious (12.5 over four games for the past week at the time; only Steve Nash averaged more assists in that span at 12.7 per) lately and it had me wondering about why some Nets fans want him traded. Also, after Troy Murphy, Harris is second in line in regards to trade rumors nowadays. Has he really been that bad? Or is it because Harris has value right now and it’s best to cash out on him? Here’s a breakdown by month (October 2010-January 2011) in wins and losses and how Harris has done.
In two wins: 21.5 points; 9.5 assists; 60 FG% (12.5 FGA); 78.6 FT%; 25 (+/-)
In one loss: 13.0 points; 6.0 assists; 50 FG% (8.0 FGA); 100 FT%; -12 (+/-)
In four wins: 22.8 points; 8.3 assists; 51.8 FG% (14.0 FGA); 77.1 FT%; 45 (+/-)
In 11 losses: 15.5 points; 5.5 assists; 43.5 FG% (11.3 FGA); 90.5 FT%; -49 (+/-)
In three wins: 21.0 points; 7.3 assists; 35.2 FG% (18.0 FGA); 77.4 FT%; 6 (+/-)
In 10 losses: 14.4 points; 6.8 assists; 45.1 FG% (11.3 FGA); 82.2 FT%; -98 (+/-)
In six wins: 13.3 points; 10.8 assists; 42.6 FG% (11.3 FGA); 89.5 FT%; 58 (+/-)
In nine losses: 7.7 points; 9.3 assists; 29.7 FG% (10.1 FGA); 84.9 FT%; -90 (+/-)
So, what can we extrapolate from the above numbers? In each month, Harris drops more dimes in wins versus losses – 3.5 more in October, 2.8 in November, 0.5 in December, and 1.5 in January. Harris is a scoring point guard and doesn’t create as much for teammates, although he’s fully capable. And when he finds the open man, more often than not, it’s a good thing.
Part of Harris’ looking to score more is because he can penetrate so easily and attack the rim, either converting or heading to the charity stripe, and partly because his teammates don’t spot up and hit the jumper consistently, with the exceptions being Anthony Morrow and Sasha Vujacic. Also, there isn’t really much of a transition game and when there is a fastbreak opportunity, Harris is likely to go hard to the hoop.
As of late, however, Harris has been on an assists tear and the Nets had their best month in January (6-9) for the season, which coincidentally coincides with Harris’ best assist-per-game average for a month (9.9). Should Harris totally change his game and become a pass-first point? No, because the Nets need his scoring still. Plus, other than Brook Lopez, there really isn’t a pick and roll option on the Nets in order to rack up the dimes John Stockton-style. However, an adjustment to meet in the middle would be beneficial it seems to both Harris and the Nets.
In regards to trading him… for who? Since the ‘Melo deal is dead, the option of switching in Chauncey Billups is likely dead as well, and there really isn’t a viable point guard available that would be an upgrade over Harris. Would you want to hand over the keys to Jordan Farmar? He’s too much of a shooting point guard as well, and not as talented or skilled. Ben Uzoh? While I like his tenacity and physicality, he’s still way too raw at this juncture.
The Nets still need Devin Harris and unless the Nets somehow win the NBA Draft Lottery and select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, maybe Harris’ services will no longer be needed. However, even Irving has some questions because of injury. A dream scenario would be getting another athletic player and have two athletic finishers (Derrick Favors and ?) and actually turn the offense loose and run more. Because of Harris’ ability to run, penetrate, and pass, it could actually make him a better player… and the Nets a better team.