I like Maurice Harkless. I think he has shown some incredible growth over his first two seasons as an NBA player. Already, he is the team’s best one-on-one defender, and with a little more work, he could very well become one of the league’s best defenders.
But his offense still needs a lot of work, and that is why head coach Jacque Vaughn starting Harkless over Tobias Harris puzzled me. I understood that the Orlando Magic needed defense, but offense was the main problem for Orlando. Having Harkless in the game, especially at the end of games, really hurt the Magic offensively.
There is no doubt in my mind that Harkless is a good player, but he would fit Orlando so much better as a sixth man. Despite his limited offensive skills, he is a slasher who can find ways to get to the basket. That slashing mentality would fit well with a second unit that will feature players like Channing Frye launching the ball from deep.
His defensive skills will also improve, as he could become a difference maker by shutting down the opponent’s best bench player. As I have written in this space countless of times, I really feel that Harris would make a much better option as a starter because of his immense offensive talents.
If Vaughn can muster up the courage to tell Harkless that he would serve the Magic better as a sixth man, Orlando would be all the better for it. And if Harkless can improve his offense, watch out.
I’m very high on Harkless. Can he become a premier player in the league? No, but he can become a solid role player on a team improving by leaps and bounds by the day. He already has the defense. Now all he has to do is develop a consistent jump shot. That is, in my opinion, the last hurdle for Harkless to jump over to become a solid NBA contributor.
Until then, he will be known as a solid defender with limited offensive skills. That is why he would be much better suited on the bench.