Maurice Harkless came into the Association without much hype or fanfare. The Lakers first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft found himself traded to the Orland Magic as part of the Dwight Howard trade. After three less than spectacular seasons with the Magic he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers for a second round draft pick. Harkless will get a brand new start and today we will take a closer look at his Fantasy Basketball value for 2015-2016.
Here is the initial projection for Harkless.
Harkless was a key piece in the Howard trade, and clearly the organization has high hopes for the former Johnnie. Harkless is a solid 6'9 with good athleticism, but is still incredibly raw with only 32 games of college experience. His absence until mid-November will delay his development, and he needs to improve his outside shooting. Orlando expects him to be a contributor off the bench.
The 2012-2013 season was by far the best season of Harkless' short career. He started 59 games for the Magic, averaging 8.2 points per game. 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and nearly a block and an assist per night. He shot 51 percent from the floor and just 27 percent from behind the arc. He also shot a less than desirable 57 percent from the line. Harkless established himself as a very solid perimeter defender and overall it was a solid rookie campaign.
The projection for 2013-2014 was a bit more encouraging.
Prospective owners see upside when they look at Harkless. He had a stretch in mid-March during his rookie season where he averaged 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 1.4 three-pointers per game over a five-game span. Of course, he averaged better than 37 minutes per game over that stretch, but it represented a quick glimpse of his potential. Over the course of the whole season, his 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks in 26 minutes per game are the only numbers that really stand out, but he will also be just 20 years old for the entirety of the 2013-14 regular season. He should start the season as the Magic's starting small forward, and if he plays relatively well, playing time shouldn't be a big issue. The Magic are rebuilding, and Harkless is one of the pieces that is part of the long-term plan, so he will be allowed some growing pains. He makes for a nice high-upside play at the end of standard league drafts and is worth targeting in dynasty formats earlier than that.
Harkless's sophomore season was a bit of a bumpy ride at times; he started less games (41) and averaged less minutes (24 per game) and saw lower totals in points (7.4), rebounds (3.3) and field goal percentage (50 percent). We did see an increase in his three point field goal percentage (38 percent) and his 58 percent from the line was a bit better. He averaged the same 1.2 steals and hiked his assist total to one per game.
Last season's projection for Harkless was encouraging
Maurice Harkless is entering his third season in the NBA. During his sophomore campaign, Harkless averaged 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 24 minutes per game through 80 games played. He shot 46 percent from the field on 6.0 attempts per game and 59 percent from the free-throw line on 1.8 attempts per game. Harkless improved to become an above-average three-point shooter last season, converting 38 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. He finished 34th in total steals (97). Sadly, it was his second consecutive season shooting less than 60 percent from the free-throw line, and even though half his shot attempts were in the restricted area, Harkless fell four percent shy (56 percent) of the league average in that zone. The addition of Channing Frye at power forward creates a position battle at starting small forward between Harkless and Tobias Harris. With Harkless possessing two traits his counterpart lacks - quality perimeter defense and outside shooting - coach Jacque Vaughn may anoint the St. John's alumnus the Opening Night starter at small forward.
Nothing went right for Harkless in 2015; he missed considerable amount of time due to injury and as a result wound up playing just 15 minutes per night. 2015 was his best season in terms of field goal percentage (52 percent) but his worst in every other category.
2015-2016 Fantasy Basketball Projection
Last season I drafted Harkless in the final round of a ten team standard Head to Head league. I bought into a triple eligible (SG, SF, PF) player for the steals and also for the threes. Unfortunately Harkless got injured and when he returned wasn't given the minutes necessary to keep him on the roster so I dropped him.
I think the major consideration in assessing the Fantasy Basketball value will be what his role on the Portland Trail Blazers is actually going to be. How many minutes is he going to get? What will his role be when he actually sees playing time? These are all questions that are up in the air at this point.
Harkless has always been seen as an above average defender. This normally keeps players on the floor but Harkless has Al-Farouq Aminu and Allen Crabbe ahead of him at small forward, Ed Davis and Meyers Leonard ahead of him at power forward and even though Harkless is shooting guard eligible he won't see much time there. At this point it's going to be difficult to find enough minutes to justify drafting Harkless in any format.
If I were drafting today I probably wouldn't draft Harkless in any format; that doesn't mean I would forget about him altogether. He's usually a good source for steals and threes but only if he gets 25 minutes or more a night. I would add Maurice Harkless to my watch list and just wait and see how things shape up with the Trail Blazers rotation and then and only then would I consider rostering Harkless in any format.
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