Gregg Popovich, who watched Harris earn his nickname—“The Blur”—in those 2006 playoffs, thinks Harris is part of a new breed of point guards, young speed merchants who can get by defenders to do what’s needed to be done. He includes Harris along with his own Tony Parker and Boston’s Rajon Rondo in the set.
The Blur? Hmm... my first thought was "that's not a nickname, that's an ocular condition". Gregg Pop cracks me up. How do you compare Tony Parker to Rondo and Harris?!? Clearly he's talking trash about his point guard Tony, hoping to motivate him or something. Parker is the quickest player in getting to the basket in the NBA this side of Monta Ellis and Barbosa; he's also a better finisher than either of those two. Parker has a midrange game.
Rondo, on the other hand, was routinely left unguarded on the perimeter back in SEC days. I'm not sure how you compare a guy with a 49% FG with a guy who exactly two years ago was being left wide open by 18 year guys from Tennessee. And yes, Rondo has picked his FG% up to 50%, from 41.8% last year (more in line with his abilities).
Of course, it helps to be the fifth option on offense, on a team where three other guys routinely draw double-teams. That might effect your FG%. Don't believe me? Fine, let's do the math...
Rondo has shot 405 FGA this year. 242 of them were in the paint. That's 60% of his attempts right there, in the paint. Not surprising, he's hit 53.7% of them. That's because those are not jumpers. Thanks to the cast of teammates around him, he can get into the paint, where he is far more successful.
Rondo's also 23-48 in the area immediately around the paint. All those shots are from within 15 feet. Anything longer than 15 feet? 50-115 on the season, or 43.5%. I guess his jumper has improved a tiny bit.
“You jump up on Devin Harris or Rondo or Tony Parker, they’re going by you,” Popovich said. “Everyone sort of backs off those guys, goes under on pick and rolls, on transition gets a few feet ahead of them to make them pull up for shots. That’s the conventional wisdom. Tony’s gotten better at it, Devin Harris had gotten better at it.”
Yeah, but you know who hasn't gotten better at it? Rondo.
Also, who the f*ck "jumps up" on Rondo? Who is the NBA player that decides to do what the SEC thought best not to do, and play tight on Rondo? Here are the only two defensive decisions more unlikely to be made by an NBA player:
"Let me play off of Peja, so he doesn't blow by me."
"I shouldn't bother to box out on this Ben Wallace free throw attempt."
Okay, so I'm enjoying ripping on Pop a little. Forgive me. I'm actually a closet Rondo fan. I think he's the first successful role player as a starting point guard since Charlie Ward (though you could make a case for Ron Harper, but I thought he was a really good player who played the diminished role so his team could flourish - on a bad team Harper could have been a star). I think Rondo is ideal for that Boston team; he's a defensive point guard, on a team that has plenty of offense already. I'm also on record as thinking Boston won't win a championship this year if Rondo is the point guard, because the team needs more from that position. I might be wrong, but that's what I think.
And I'm not sold yet on Devin Harris. He may turn out to be a really good, special, young player. But I was never that fond of him, and I wouldn't put him in the top half of starting point guards in the NBA right now. That doesn't mean he can't improve, but despite being surrounded by mountains of talents - MVP Dirk, All-Star Josh Howard, former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse, and Jason Terry (underrated star) - Devin couldn't really do better than 14 ppg and 5 apg. Not exactly overwhelming numbers.
Dallas is currently 25th, out of 30 teams, in assists per game. They are barely ahead of three teams that played without point guards for long stretches of the season - Sacramento (Bibby was out most of the season), NY Knicks (Marbury), Washington (Arenas), and two teams that really don't have NBA-quality point guards and know it - the Cavs and the T-Wolves. That's it. Considering that the Mavs are a jump-shooting team, they should be among the leaders in assists. Devin Harris' career high in assists is 12. Kidd averages about one less than that per game. And that is why they had to get Kidd.
By necessity Harris's numbers will improve in NJ - say 17 and 6 - but I just don't think the team will. He's a decent player with loads of potential, but I don't see how you couldn't just describe him succinctly as "Marcus Williams, with 2 years more experience".
Oh wait... let's rip on SML favorite John Hollinger next:
“While Kidd is a great defender against big guards, Harris is vastly superior against the quick guards — Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, etc. — the Mavs are likely to be matching up against in the playoffs,” Hollinger wrote two weeks before the trade in naming Harris to his All-Sleeper team. “Additionally, Kidd shoots 36.9 percent from the floor and 34.3 percent from 3, while Harris is at 48.3 percent and 35.7 percent from 3 … so whom would you rather have spacing the floor for Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard?”
First off, I'm not sure what Hollinger is saying. The quote is taken out of context, so I don't know if Hollinger is referring to Harris' defense against those "quick guards", or his offense. But let's say he's talking about offense, since he follows it up with offensive numbers. Harris is good against... the defensive giant that is Steve Nash? Really? He has his best games against those guys, huh? Again, if he means offensively... that hasn't been the case this year:
2 games versus Tony Parker's Spurs: 11.0 ppg, 4.5 apg.
2 games versus Allen Iverson's Nuggets: 9.0 ppg, 2.0 apg, 2.0 TO per game.
2 games versus Chris Paul's Hornets: 9.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.0 TO per game.
Obviously Devin Harris does well offensively against Steve Nash... SML has noted many times that Steve Nash's defense is embarrassing. In fact, we once wrote that "Steve Nash's defense makes Devin Harris look like Tony Parker, and Tony Parker look like Oscar Robertson".
What about Devin Harris' defense against those guys? Check it out:
Chris Paul, 2 games vs. Dallas: 27.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, 2.0 TO/2.0 Steals.
Allen Iverson, 2 games vs. Dallas*: 29.0 ppg, 10.5 apg, 5 TO/4.5 Steals.
Steve Nash, 2 games vs Dallas: 22.5 ppg, 15.5 apg, 5.0 TO/0.5 Steals.
Tony Parker, 2 game vs. Dallas: 15.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, 2.5 TO/1.0 Steals.
*Not sure Harris was guarding Iverson (or vice versa) when Dallas played Denver, but Hollinger brought it up.
Harris has done a good job defensively against Parker this season. Beyond that, everyone else on that list has done better than they normally do.
Finally, to address Rickhouse's great comments in our last post:
Gotta disagree with you on the Nets, I like this trade a lot for them. Devin Harris is very, very good, so much so that some have suggested it would be foolish for Dallas to swap him for Kidd straight up. Kidd can't shoot at all (time to bring back the Ason Kidd nickname) or defend anyone this side of Jay Williams. Don't let the triple double numbers be deceiving. As you mentioned, Ager is ok as well, and I think Diop is useful. He's not what people expected when he jumped to the NBA out of high school, but he's a very solid defensive big man.
I guess the only problem is the Nets could have saved more cap space sticking with Kidd i guess, and the fact that Harris now sort of blocks the development of Marcus Williams. In all, I really like this deal for the Nets.
I think this trade only hurts the Mavs. I don't think they'll win the title this year, and it certainly hurts them in the future. Howard (who's their best player) and Harris are a pretty nice set of young players for a team that is so close already.
The Nets had to move Jason Kidd. He wasn't happy, and was tanking the Nets' season. By trading him now, before the deadline, after almost everyone else in the West had made big moves, they had some leverage. They managed to pry Devin Harris out of Dallas in the trade, and I'm not sure they would have been able to do that if they had waited until the offseason.
Of course, for the Nets, the real alternatives were this: Either keep Kidd until the end of his current contract, and clear the entire amount (in time for a decent 2009 free agent class - they could sign Mike Bibby or Baron Davis, for example, and still have another $7 million left for other free agents). Or they could have extend Kidd's contract a couple of years, kept him happy, and then tried to get a big man at some point down the road. Instead they sold him at a discount; they didn't give him away, but they sold him at 50% off.
As for the Mavs - I don't think they'll win the title this year, but they are certainly much closer than they were a week ago. The window for the Mavs will be open for less than it might have been before, but it's a bigger window now. It's easier to get to the Finals with Dirk, Howard, Terry, Stackhouse and now Kidd than with those four and Devin Harris. Harris is a good young guard, whose development is coming up well. He's still got plenty of time to hit his peak. The Mavs do not. Dirk is probably at his peak - he'll be an MVP-type player for the next two seasons before starting his decline. Stackhouse is running out of time. Howard is coming into his own right now (same class as LeBron, Anthony and Bosh), so he's making the leap this year from talented starter to All-Star, top-20 player. Seems to me that now is the time to go for it, and not wait on Harris to develop. It wouldn't be wrong if they did, but I'm in favor of rolling the dice and going for it now.
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