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A Hater’s Guide to Andrew Harrison

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Rational, possibly

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

One thing you should read this week: Joe Mullinax on Andrew Harrison, and chilling on the hate just because the rookie played poorly. You can’t have the young guy grow without being open to growing pains. The logic there is pretty sound.

After that, the thought is that Harrison can get to a respectable place in the NBA. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but it advances the conversation from just hating on Harrison to why we’re hating on Harrison. If you hate Andrew Harrison for no reason, or a bad reason, you should stop bringing that trash near anyone.

I think there’s space for me to get these jokes off, though. I don’t think Harrison is that good. Speaking bluntly: I never really thought he demonstrated a single NBA skill last season. And that’s a really mean thought! We pile on so many players — Ryan Hollins, Jarell Martin, Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Jeff Green possibly forever — that it’s possible the problem is us. There’s definitely a bedrock of love there, because Harrison seems like a pretty decent guy who is employed by my favorite hooping team, and he isn’t, say, Derrick Rose.

But, well, these jokes must get off.

Maybe I’m being too hard on him. Harrison got better as the season progressed, he held onto the minutes that Wade Baldwin IV and Toney Douglas couldn’t, and he had himself a legitimate playoff highlight that qualifies as an easily fetchable good thing.

He also shot 32.5 percent from the field, 27.6 from three, and averaged 1.2 turnovers to 2.8 assists. He wasn’t a stable point guard — though it was bad to begin with, the second unit tanked when he was at the helm — and he doesn’t have the range to warrant playing at shooting guard. So no, I don’t think I’m wrong.

NBA: New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Rookies are bad, and they might get better! That’s why you play your young guys, which the Grizzlies never have. I just don’t see it in Harrison, though, and we should be careful not to swing the other way — playing young guys only because they’re young. You never know about young guys, but when all you’re holding on to is the unknown, that probably says more about what you already know.

The best thing in Harrison’s game last season was passable man-to-man defense, or maybe the ability to draw fouls with that added length at point guard. Mostly though, there’s little in his skill-set or athletic profile that leads me to think there’s an NBA guy there.

Contrast this with Baldwin, who was even worse on the court last season, but looked like an elite defender and three-point shooter in college. I can still see a player there, regardless of how bad his rookie year was, which is the difference from Harrison. (Year two is make-or-break time, though.)

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Look, Harrison isn’t the first guy in the league that I thought didn’t have game at all, and he wouldn’t even be the first to put me in the wrong. Lance Thomas, when he played for the Pelicans and Thunder in the first few years of his career, was a 6'8 tweener forward with no jumper and no big man game. Suddenly, he started defending three positions for the New York Knicks and basically became a three-point shooter overnight. Nobody is going to remember Lance Thomas from the annals of NBA history, but when somebody shows you wrong like that, you don’t forget. It’s possible.

Still though, 2012’s Lance Thomas isn’t a bet that I’d take again. I’m not buying on Harrison, either.

Now here comes 31 year old Mario Chalmers, who offers you even less than Harrison in the long-term—maybe what you get in the short-term is worth it. Last season showed that there’s a point where you need a survivable guy, especially at point guard of all positions, to keep things steady when Mike Conley sits out. The Toronto Raptors simmered Delon Wright behind Cory Joseph for two years before installing him as their back-up this summer. The Philadelphia 76ers probably played themselves by going so long without an actual NBA point guard to feed their other young players. Yeah, play young guys, but maybe not at the cost of your entire bench unit.

Remember, things were bad enough between Harrison and Baldwin that the Grizzlies waived Troy Williams for a veteran point guard. Wrong veteran, but now you’re trying it with Chalmers on a training camp invite. It’s no sure thing that Chalmers still has any game, after sitting last season out to recover from an Achilles injury, but Harrison hasn’t been a guy to hold out on, either. They can play it out in camp — let’s call it a race to replacement level.

That’ll come in the fall. For now, what we’re left with is last season’s version of Harrison, who still operated within roasting range. Sorry, but you can’t put up Chandler Parsons’ numbers and escape these Twitter fingers. My man is really actually Nick Calathes-lite.

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