Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Examining Maurice Harkless' 2013-2014 Magic Season

Over the course of the Magic's offseason, leading up to the NBA Draft, I'll be analyzing all of the Orlando players that are still on the roster and how they did in their 2013-2014 campaign. I'll be going in ascending order based on games played. I won't be assigning grades or scores.

Previously in the series:

E'Twaun Moore
Andrew Nicholson
Arron Afflalo
Kyle O'Quinn
Jameer Nelson
Tobias Harris
Nikola Vucevic
Doron Lamb
Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Maurice Harkless

Call me naive, idiotic, a homer, ridiculously optimistic, whatever, I still believe that Maurice Harkless will become a Tracy McGrady-Paul George hybrid. The man just turned 21 years old and has this gift of almost effortless explosiveness. Combine that with this season's strides in improving his already solid defense along with developing into a 3-point shooting specialist, and the Magic have a player who is about to enter his third season on the cusp of kicking his career into another gear.
Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn on Maurice Harkless following the November 1st win over New Orleans"We want all our guys to be aggressive and I think overall his focus at the beginning of the game from the tip, from warm-ups, from his concentration in film. I think overall he was ready to play tonight and it showed. That's the mindset and the attitude that every player has to have each night.
For Maurice it was just great to see him actually go through a full Summer League, training camp, and preseason. His sports hernia robbed him of that during his rookie campaign, and that caused him to play catch-up the entire year. His sophomore season saw Maurice stay healthy as his lanky frame put on a lot of muscle. That meant improving his finishing in the paint from last season which he did along with the rest of his shooting. 

Harkless played in 80 contests this season, 4 more than his rookie campaign. His FG% slightly improved to 46.4% despite going from 59 starts to only 41 starts and seeing his season minutes drop by 1.6 per game. He also went from 7.4 shot attempts per contests to 6.0. Free throw shooting needs to get better than 59.4 FT%. The 6'9" wing had 30 games where he scored 10+ points this season, one more than last year. 

The 21-year-old only topped 20+ points three times. His season-high was 22 points.

Maurice's largest strides came from behind the 3-point line going from 27.4 3PT% to 38.3%. Keep in mind, Maurice was in an awfully bad rut in December after losing his starting job. But after the All-Star Break, man did Maurice look like a great shooter. 47.6 FG% and 40.0 3PT% in his final 28 games is so encouraging heading into his third season. Improving his dribbling will open up those jump shots. 

The New York native is set to make about $1.8 million in '14-'15. Then GM Rob Hennigan and company will have to decide on whether or not to exercise Maurice's '15-'16 team option which is valued at about $2.9 million. Harkless was the 15th overall pick taken by the Sixers in the 2012 Draft. The year before it was Kawhi Leonard, who just won a championship with the Spurs and claimed Finals MVP. No one is expecting Harkless to be Kawhi, but Maurice needs to continue to up his shooting reliability and claim the job as Jacque Vaughn's best wing defender to ensure his long-term future in Orlando. Below are some numbers that show Maurice is a better defender than well-respected defensive stopper Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Charlotte.

Maurice will be participating in international duty for the first time in his life as he will be starting for the Puerto Rican national team - along side ex-Magic man Carlos Arroyo and the tiny JJ Barea - in the FIBA World Cup that will run from late August into September in Spain. It's something that anyone with an interest in Harkless should view intently to see how Maurice can acclimate to a foreign environment against top competition on a global stage. I believe this will be the start of Harkless making his leap in finding his identity and showing us how valuable he will be going forward. Especially now that Orlando will actually be focused on winning. This guy is going to be special if his development stays on track. 

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