20-For-20: Mavs Pros & Cons Of Starting Devin

DallasBasketball.com
Posted Jan 28, 2014


DB.com's 'Mr. Mak' is an unabashed admirer of Devin Harris. Yet even he sees two sides to the argument over whether it's time for Devin to join the Mavs starting lineup. So we've got a Top-10 List of Pros ... and a Top-10 List of Cons. Devin as a starter? Mr. Mak makes a case ... both ways.



The Dallas Mavericks get such a boost from Devin Harris that he should start.

The Mavs starting lineup is fine, Devin is a weapon off the bench, he should be allowed to come along slowly, so ... he should not start.

Top 10 Reasons Devin Harris SHOULD Start

10 - Defense. Harris is an excellent defender, a player Mark Cuban once petitioned the NBA to recognize as “The best defensive point guard in the NBA.” Injecting Harris into the starting 5 would do wonders for the team in terms of matching up with the opposition’s backcourt.
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9 - Ball Security. Through five games (86 minutes played) Harris has committed only one turnover, while dishing out 16 assists. Meanwhile Dallas ranks sixth in the NBA in turnovers per game (13.5) with Monta Ellis committing the second most turnovers in the entire NBA. Jose Calderon is also very good at taking care of the ball, so in order to see a notable difference, Harris must (A) Replace Monta Ellis in the starting line-up or (B) Replace Calderon, but take on more of a playmaking role than the Spaniard has when paired alongside Monta. Harris must take the ball (and pressure) off of Ellis to be the sole penetrating creator in the backcourt.

8 – Bench Playmaking. Piggybacking off the last point, Calderon is an elite playmaking PG capable of running an offense while rarely turning the ball over. He hasn’t been able to display that talent this year very much due to being paired up with ball-dominant Monta Ellis though. In the event Monta is benched in favor of Harris, he instantly becomes a super 6th man playmaker, by far the best in the NBA. Bottom line: splitting up Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis allows both of them to have the ball more in their hands.

7 - Bench Range. Calderon has proven to be an elite 3 point scorer, and doesn’t necessarily need the attention Monta and Dirk draw to be a sharpshooting sniper from deep. The attention Dirk and Monta draw from defenses is a tremendous help to their teammate’s shooting percentages, but Calderon is one player who doesn’t need that help. Jose will continue to shoot a high percentage even when paired with lesser talent (he led the entire NBA in 3p% last season)—and thus it would be wise to use the Dirk+Monta dynamo to help bring up the shooting percentages of Harris, meanwhile pairing Jose with a bench unit allows those players to benefit from his spacing and elite shooting.

6 – Uber Two-Man Game. Devin thrives off the pick-and-roll, and he already has a ton of chemistry with Mavs Co-Captain Dirk Nowitzki. These two could end up being the most cohesive and effective duo in Dallas since Jason Terry and Dirk ran down the AAC’s runway. The Dallas Mavericks get such a boost from Devin Harris that he should start.

5 - Veteran Leadership. Harris has been praised for his leadership on and off the court by a myriad of well-respected minds from Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan to fellow all-star LeBron James to current head coach Rick Carlisle (whom most recently referred to Harris’ availability to the team as a “Godsend”). It’s part of the reason Harris is one of the few players to be named a Captain in every locker room he’s played in. Mavs rookie Shane Larkin has often commented on how much of a help Harris has been in his development.

Can these intangibles be translated into real, hard numbers? Perhaps. Harris’ individual stats last season weren’t exactly eye-popping, but a closer look at advanced numbers reveal he was among the very best in the NBA in terms of helping his team win:

*On-court Points per 100 Possessions: Offense 105.2, Defense 97.9, Net: +7.3.

*Off-court Points per 100 Possessions: Offense 101.4, Defense: 104.1, Net -2.7.

*Net Total Points per 100 Possessions: Offense: +3.8, Defense: +6.2, Total +10.0.

4 - Geometry. Harris came into the Association as a fearless rim attacker and his game was built around penetration. Defenses, however, often clogged up the lane and dared him to shoot due to the lack of range on his jumpshot. He’s quietly developed into a threat from beyond the arc in recent years though (currently shooting 39% from 3), and is now able to space the floor at a respectable level.

Combined with his ability to penetrate, Harris offers two complimentary skills no other player on the roster can boast of, which can open up the floor on a geometrical level, as Carlisle would say.



3 - Intensity. Another intangible, one which excited Mavs fans back in 2004, and made him an instant fan-favorite. Harris is fearless in attacking the rim, tenacious with his defensive effort, and always amongst the league leaders in drawing charges. This is a key in building the culture and identity of a team. He’s been called “the one man fast break” and “the walking basketball encyclopedia.” Paired with Monta Ellis, this duo could kill many teams purely with speed.

2 - Destiny. Since being drafted in 2004, the Mavs’ plan for Devin was to learn under the tutelage of Steve Nash and eventually take the reigns at point. Lots has happened since then to ever let that goal become a full-time reality, but nearly a decade later, Harris (who was named a Maverick Co-Captain in 2007 alongside franchise cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki) is finally back in a Mavs uniform, and looked fantastic against the Pistons in his first game handling a big chunk of point duties in front of the home crowd. Devin says “Dallas is home,” and the proverbial PG door is a knocking on his doorstep.

Call it karma, destiny or what have you – but the story of a prodigal son coming back home and reclaiming the throne he was always destined to sit on would rank near to top of feel-good stories in the NBA. ... at least for Mavs fans.

1- Defense. If you’re feeling déjà vu, fear not, you DID read it twice—this list begins and ends with Defense. Dallas won the championship in 2011 with a top-eight defense and considering the Mavs’ current ratings on each end of the court (sixth in the NBA on offense, 21st on defense), it’s clear where the problem lies with this erratic second-tier contender. Placing Harris in the starting five goes beyond individual match-ups and removing Calderon’s swiss cheese D; it sends a message to opposing players as well as teammates that defense is a priority. Man-to-man, help D, communication, etc. --when it comes to defense, Harris-Have-It-All. And his overall impact on this end of the court would undeniably be the prime motivation to insert him into the starting five.

Top 10 Reasons Devin Harris Should NOT Start

10 - Monta Have It All. Ellis is a player powered by self-confidence. Carlisle has handed him the keys this season, and Monta has revved the Mavs engine with his elite penetration and quieted critics who have questioned his attitude in the past. A move to the bench would possibly hurt his ego and disgruntlement from Monta increases the likelihood the Mavs locker room gets a dose of the drama that has clouded Ellis’ reputation on previous squads.



9 - Calderon’s Suit. His sixth man suit, to be more specific. As a pure pass-first PG, Calderon doesn’t fit the NBA mold of the typical sixth man -- a guard with a scorer’s mentality. Although Vince Carter is already providing that scoring punch, Harris fits the profile much better. If you don't shift Monta, do you shift Jose? Calderon would be a guy attempting to break the NBA’s traditional mold, and that brings risks, which by definition have a tendency to cause problems to arise.

8 - Spacing. Harris has improved his jumpshot to a respectable level, but he’s not a natural-born shooter who opposing teams actively gameplan to stop. Calderon is a great shooter from beyond the arc, leading the entire league last season. Even if Harris is “good enough” to space the floor, he (and pretty much anyone else in the entire NBA) is a downgrade to the historically great sniping Spaniard.

7 - The MOB. Devin Harris gives the Mavs Off the Bench (“M.O.B.” - once upon a time coined by Jason Terry) a strong edge against the opposing team’s second unit. Dallas has established a tradition of having the league’s best benches.

6 – The $$$. The Mavs invested a lot of money into Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon — much more so than in vet's-minimum Devin Harris. It would be great to believe this doesn’t matter, but the NBA is ultimately a business, and money always matters.

5 - The Wright Stuff. Harris and Wright have many things in common. They’re both charitable and community leaders off the court, both have donned jersey No. 34 in Dallas, and both have those distinguishable ears. But most importantly, both bread their butter on pick-and-roll play. As long as Wright is coming off the bench, it makes perfect sense to pair-up two of the team’s best P-n-R players. Per Synergy Sports, the Mavericks run more pick-and-roll than any other team in the NBA. These two guys are among the reasons.

4 - Half-Man/Half-Amazing. Paired with Vince Carter in New Jersey, Devin Harris had the best individual stretch of his career, making the All-Star Team and forming one of the league’s best 1-2 punches with Vinsanity. Could they re-create some of that magic again?

3 - Stocks. If the Mavs are open to trading Monta and/or Jose if the right opportunity arises, a demotion to the bench would more than likely hurt and lower their trade value. Devin’s low salary shields his value from swinging in such a large manner in either direction.

2 - The JET Factor. Jason Eugene Terry was a player fully capable of being a starter, but willingly and happily accepted a bench role in Dallas for the good of the team. Not only did it help the team on the court, it set a tone of humility, unselfishness and an All-In attitude in the locker room. Devin’s commitment to team is at the same level. We believe he might have a JET-esque effect on the Mavs environment and system if seen (and managed) as an heir to Terry.



1 - Consistency. For all his positives, the one Achilles heel of Devin has always been his ability to stay healthy. Injuries have plagued his career and have often caused him to be in and out of his team’s lineup. Injuries, and in-turn the inability to establish consistency at the point, are arguably the No. 1 reason Harris was unable to hold on to the Mavs' starting PG spot all the way back in 2008, and ultimately traded for relative iron man Jason Kidd.

Conclusion -- The short and simple answer: No, Devin Harris should NOT start.

The longer answer: No … not yet, at least.

The benefits of bringing Harris off the bench at this stage of the season outweigh the benefits of starting him. The sample size of his shooting, impact and pretty much everything else is extremely small to make drastic changes to the team. The risk of hurting egos, negatively impacting personnel moves, and interrupting the establishment of stability isn’t worth it.

The important move is a continued increase in minutes and more of a growing role in the rotation for Harris.
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Devin has already started to establish himself as a go-to closer of sorts for the team and that has resulted in Ws in the standings—which is what matters most right now. However, if the Mavs find themselves in a tough situation come post-season time, or even at a make-or-break time in the regular season ... Carlisle (a student of the game) should look back in history at what the Mavericks did in San Antonio circa 2006.

Down 0-1 in the series, Coach Avery Johnson inserted Harris into the starting lineup in Game 2 and it ended up turning the tide in Dallas’ favor, eventually leading to the biggest playoff victory in franchise history at the time.

The Mavs' best solution at this midway stage in the NBA marathon is to develop Harris as a key player in the rotation off the bench, and saving Harris’ insertion into the starting five as a weapon to be used at a time of true need.

That can be Devin's destiny.



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