On July 14, 2015, the Orlando Magic dumped Maurice Harkless on the Portland Trail Blazers for a top 55 protected second round pick in 2020. Translation, it was a get Maurice Harkless the heck out of Orland trade.
Fast forward to today, Harkless is still just 23 years old and has worked his way into Portland’s starting lineup and a big role on a playoff contender. This should not be a huge shock. Harkless was the 15th overall pick in 2012 NBA Draft and clearly a skilled young player with potential. He seems to be starting to realize that potential this season.
Below is a highlight video of Maurice Harkless dropping 23 points on the LA Clippers for you get a small taste of his game.
Let us first take a look at what Harkless is producing this season and then make some assumptions about where he takes his game the rest of the season.
What Harkless is Producing
Through 14 games of this season, Harkless is averaging 30.9 minutes per game and that has led to 1.6 three-pointers made, 5.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 11.6 points per contest. If he can see those averages through the season, he would be averaging a career high in minutes, threes, rebounds, and points per game.
The start to the season has been fueled by both the minute's increase and some hot shooting. He is averaging career highs in field goal, three-point, and free throw percentage. I mentioned he just 23 years old, so it could be he is taking a step forward in his shooting or those percentages could regress back to career averages.
What the Advanced Statistics Say
I took a peak at Harkless’ per 36-minute number for his career to see if this production looks sustainable. In viewing those numbers, I found that he should average a career high in three-pointers made due to an increase in attempts. His rebound, assist, and steal numbers should actually increase as the season progresses. His blocks are in line with his career numbers and so are the points if you regress the shooting percentages. To make that long story short, Harkless should actually improve or keep steady with all of his current statistics.
In the advanced metrics, Harkless’ numbers are difficult to discern. He has a positive offensive box score plus/minus for the first time in his career but is a negative defensive box score plus/minus for the first time. He is also average a career low value over replacement player (VORP).
What to Expect Going Forward?
After examining all the numbers and factors I suspect this is a breakout season for Harkless. I believe the hard work on his shot pays off and the percentages hold. He increases his rebounds, steals, and assists for their current season averages and the other numbers hold relatively steady.
I do not expect the minutes or production to change much when Al-Farouq Aminu returns from injury. I believe we are seeing a new and improved Maurice Harkless. I am definitely a fan and a believer.
There you have it, my thoughts on why this is a breakout season for Maurice Harkless. The Blazers did a phenomenal job stealing a talented young player from the Magic for next to nothing and the risk is paying off in Portland. Here is to hoping it continues in Portland for many years to come.
Thanks to Basketball-Reference for all the statistics used in this column. You can follow me on twitter @wattsy4444 if you want to read and hear more of my work.