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Grizzlies Free Agency Profiles: Maurice Harkless

Could Moe Harkless makes sense as front court depth for the Grizzlies?

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NBA: New York Knicks at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Maruice Harkless- Forward, St. John’s University

27 Years Old, 6’7”, 220 Pounds, 7’2” Wingspan

Draft- 2012, 1st Round, 15th pick by Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Orlando Magic in August 2012)

Experience-8 years ( Three with Orlando Magic, Four with Portland Trail Blazers, 2019-2020 Season with Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks)

Career Stats: 537 Games Played, 23.1 minutes per game, 7.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 47.8 FG%, 32.5 3PFG%, 54.7 FT%, 52.9 effective field goal percentage, 12.2 PER, .085 Win Shares Per 48 Minutes

When you hear the label of “journeyman” applied to a player in sports, you mostly think of a player who has somehow spent more than a decade in his respective sport with many different teams. While this individual has likely never been a star, he has consistently satisfied the role asked of him. It is rare that this label could sensibly be applied to a 27 year old NBA talent; however, in the case of Maurice Harkless, it certainly seems to be a logical title.

Over his eight year career, Harkless has been a member of five organizations, with each change of scenery being the result of a trade. Yet despite the nomadic theme to his career to this point, Harkless has remained relevant wherever he has landed. In 547 career games, Harkless has started 324 times. These starts have also occurred with playoff contenders in Portland and Los Angeles, and Harkless was trusted to start in 32 out of 33 career playoff games in Portland.

Both as a reserve and a starter, Harkless certainly has gained plenty of experience in various roles for teams at different points on the competitive time line. However, coming off a four year, $42M dollar extension and entering free agency, the question for teams considering Harkless is simple:

Is experience the most attractive trait he offers?

Numbers That May Make Harkless

NBA: Washington Wizards at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2%- In his career, Harkless has produced 21.9 Win Shares, 13 of which are Defensive Win Shares. Through multiple roles in the front court over his career, Harkless has proven to be an effective defender. A big reason for this is due to his ability as a defensive playmaker.

Among active players who have played at least 12,000 minutes in their career, Harkless is one of eight players who have produced a steal and block percentage of 2% or higher. Other names on this list include Paul Milsap, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, and Demarcus Cousins. While Harkless has not and likely never will be on the level of those names, his inclusion in this group highlights the impact of his consistent ability as a disruptor and playmaker on defense.

58.3%- Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, Harkless has made 58.3% of his two point shot attempts, the best stretch of his career. Though he is shooting less overall and has attempted three pointers more frequently, he has certainly improved his shot selection within the arc, especially at the rim. If Harkless were to find a new home that emphasizes transition and fast pace, his improvement as a scorer could signal untapped potential that could be realized in the right landing spot.


NBA: Washington Wizards at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

3.2- On a Per-36 minute scale, Harkless has dropped from 10.3 FGA to 7.1 FGA between his rookie year and the 2019-2020 season. His two point attempts have decreased from 8.2 to 4.7, while his three point attempts have remained fairly consistent as they have increased from 2.1 to 2.5. With a career 47.8% field goal percentage and 32.5% three point field goal percentage, Harkless simply does not add significant value as a scorer. As the decrease in his minutes per game in recent seasons may suggest, in a faster paced NBA that emphasizes offense, the little value Harkless provides as a scorer and offensive player could continue resulting in a reduced role.

15%- Since his rookie year during the 2012-2013 season, Harkless is one of seven players who have played more than 12,000 minutes and registered a career usage rate below 15%. Names such as Andre Iguodala, DeAndre Jordan, Patrick Beverley, and Kyle Korver have displayed elite defensive or shooting traits that have provided significant value despite their lack of usage. While Harkless has proven to be a good defender, he also is near the bottom of this group in both scoring and playmaking. In a league that is demanding the ability to shoot from all five positions on the court, the lack of value Harkless provides with the ball in his hands could hurt his future value.

23.1- As mentioned above, Harkless has started 324 games in his career. He also has averaged 23.1 MPG. Among all players with at least 300 starts since the 2012-2013 season, only Harkless and Amir Johnson have averaged 23.1 or less MPG. This indicates that though Harkless has started quite a bit, his limitations have made him less than reliable to stay on the court for long stretches. His limitations as a playmaker and shooter are the main reasons. However, his 61.2% career free throw percentage also makes him a liability in times where fouls become more frequent. Simply put, Harkless’s skill set makes him hard to rely upon late in games.


Of the 135 votes so far displaying how Grizzlies fans would feel about the addition of Harkless to the Grizzlies roster, 74.1% voted that they simply would not be interested. With a frontcourt that already features wings such as Kyle Anderson and Justise Winslow, as well as franchise cornerstones Jaren Jackson Jr. and elite reserve Brandon Clarke, a player with the skill set of Harkless simply does not excite as a talent or ideally fill a known need for the Grizzlies.

If one or two members of the Grizzlies roster were to depart via trade or free agency, Harkless may be a sensible depth piece to add. However, his experience likely will bring with it a price tag to rich for Memphis. Harkless has a skill set that compares most favorably with Anderson and Josh Jackson. Both Anderson and Jackson have a emerged as questionable long-term fits for Memphis due to the preferences of head coach Taylor Jenkins. With Anderson viewed as a potential trade piece and Jackson not likely returning, investing in a talent such as Harkless would be an odd move for Memphis.


NBA: Washington Wizards at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, a few players that who have had similar careers and impacts on the game as Harkless are P.J. Tucker and Al-Farouq Aminu. In recent years, they signed four year, $31M and three year, $29M contracts, respectively. Though the ramifications of COVID-19 may impact his earnings ability, Harkless is likely seeking a similar commitment over multiple years.

It does not seem Memphis is a sensible source to offer that opportunity.

FINAL OFFER: One year, $7M

If the Grizzlies see multiple departures from their front court depth and Harkless remains unsigned, his defensive presence may be worth an investment. However, with the Grizzlies needs for shooting and playmaking, plus the likely desire to invest in younger players with higher ceilings, Harkless does not seem to make a lot of sense for the Grizzlies. Though he certainly has done well to add value over his career, I do agree that Memphis seems to be an unlikely destination for Harkless to land this offseason.

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