Rumor Mongering: Let Go

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 12, 2011 under Commentary, Rumors | 3 Comments to Read

The memory of Devin Harris as a Dallas Maverick currently floats between two worlds. It’s not as vivid as a yesterday’s events; Harris’ Maverick tenure is lacking in that fresh, day-old texture. At the same time, his time as a Mav hasn’t been bathed in nostalgia’s glow. His seasons in Dallas were good days, but they weren’t the good ol’ days.

That — among other things — makes the prospect of a Harris return to Dallas a bit strange. Such an acquisition couldn’t rightfully be painted as the return of an old friend any more than it could be a celebration of his return from a business day trip. Harris has been gone long enough to remove him from Mavs fans’ immediate consciousness (the KIDD VS. HARRIS dynamic has completely evaporated), and yet time hasn’t been able to scrub clean their familiarity with his weaknesses as a player.

It’s probably a bit silly to talk about Harris possibly returning to Dallas at all. It’s a bit of a long-shot, to say the least, and can only occur if the following conditions are met:

If the Nuggets successfuly execute a Carmelo Anthony trade,

and if that trade also involves the Nets (most likely as a landing point for Anthony),

and if Devin Harris is part of the trade package (which he doesn’t have to be),

and if Harris is sent to Denver, or a similarly positioned team which has little use for him,

and if the Mavs decide they’re legitimately interested in Harris,

and if they can grab him for a reasonable cost,

then Harris may be a Maverick again.

Certainly improbable, but once those dominoes start falling, who knows where they’ll stop. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Mavs looked to Harris — rather than Stephen Jackson or even Andre Iguodala — as a possible wing scorer, and though the idea of playing Harris alongside another point guard seems odd, it could be crazy enough to work.

Of course, by “to work” I mean “to hedge the loss of Caron Butler’s supplementary scoring.” I’m not sure how much acquiring Harris would really boost Dallas’ stock (and of course, the impact of his possible acquisition would depend heavily on the cost), but he could score efficiently at the least (he’s still one of the better foul-drawing point guards in the league), and I’m convinced he could share the court with Jason Kidd in certain situations.

I’ll reserve a more detailed analysis for a later date in an alternate universe when, if, and only when/if the Mavs actually acquire Harris, but here’s my initial thinking on the subject of him meshing with Dallas’ current backcourt.

Harris has played alongside Jason Terry before, and the two proved to be an effective offensive and defensive duo. JET wasn’t exactly a plus defender in those days (not that he’s much more than passable now), but Harris’ solid on-ball defense against quicker perimeter threats allowed Terry to defend the lesser of an opponent’s evils.It worked, at least well enough to propel the Mavs to the Finals in 2006 and to the league’s best record in 2007.

Seeing how Harris might work with Kidd would be the more interesting facet of a potential integration process. Harris is accustomed to running an offense and needs the ball in his hands. He has a decent mid-range game, but he doesn’t work all that well to get open (or at least to get open and into scoring position) without the ball, and isn’t much of a catch-and-shoot player. For a minute, it seemed as though his three-point shooting might come around, but Harris has never been a legitimate threat from beyond the arc, and this season he’s shooting just 30.8% from distance. He’s no proxy for Terry or Rodrigue Beaubois, but he’s also not the passer that Kidd is. That makes Harris a poor fit for some fantasy Dallas starting lineup, as letting him run the offense would negate Kidd’s playmaking, but playing him off the ball would make him an inefficient jump-shooter.

There is another intriguing possibility, though: what if Harris’ use as “a wing scorer” put the ball in his hands during most of his time on the court, and enabled him to run the second unit in lieu of J.J. Barea? The Mavs have hopes that Beaubois will grow more comfortable as a point guard sooner rather than later, but Barea is the initiator off the bench until that responsibility is ripped from his hands. Harris is talented and productive enough to do so instantly should he actually become a Mav. Dallas has struggled to score without Dirk Nowitzki on the floor, and the moments when Terry or Caron Butler acted as only productive on-court scorer acted as a breeding ground for opponents’ momentum. The Mavs may be a deep team, but only in the sense that they have many players which can achieve similar ends. Anchoring an offense is not one of those ends. The Lakers have Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and the Spurs have the Manu Ginobili-Tony Parker-Tim Duncan triumvirate. Dallas doesn’t have a scorer that can run the show when Nowitzki is out of the game, but Harris could potentially take on that responsibility. He’s not an all-world scorer, but Harris’ stop-and-go drives provide him with a consistent avenue for efficient scoring.

I don’t think Harris would be crazy about coming off the bench, but a role behind Ki — I’m going to pause for a minute. It’s amazing just how much ado can come from nothing. Devin Harris isn’t a Maverick, and odds are that he’ll never be one again.

If there’s a point to any of this aside from indulging whimsy, it’s to open up your mind. Harris is a point guard. Kidd is a point guard. Yet they’re still very different players who could succeed in very different situations. The Mavs lost Caron Butler, but their means for improving shouldn’t be limited to those of similar body types to Caron or even similar skill sets. If Donnie Nelson, Rick Carlisle, and Mark Cuban deem Iguodala or Jackson the most suitable replacement available, then power to them. But it would be foolish to disregard Harris on the grounds of position or stature alone, and if trading for him provides the best path toward improvement, the Mavs would be wise to at least trot down it to take a peak around the bend.