Call-Up Breakdown: Manny Harris to the Lakers
One of the most fun storylines of the NBA D-League season thus far appears to be coming to an end in the most fitting way possible: Just as the legend of the "Michigan Mamba" was blossoming, Los Angeles D-Fenders star and NBADLeague.com's No. 1 Prospect Manny Harris is heading across town to take his talents to the Lakers (see official release on his 10-day contract). The minor-league Mamba will step up in relief of his namesake.
Typically when a player with the skill and experience level of Harris goes down to the NBA D-League, it's simply a convenient way for him to work out the kinks of his game before his inevitable Call-Up. But Harris' stint turned into something more, a show unto itself, beginning with his 41-point debut shortly after the ink on his D-Fenders contract dried, and reaching a climax last week when the team bestowed him the nickname during his franchise-record 49-point explosion. That kicked off the the former Ann Arbor favorite's run of 129 points in three games, which vaulted him past Pierre Jackson on both the scoring leaderboard and the Prospect Watch. The Lakers are certainly striking while the Michigan Mamba is hot.
Not a whole lot has changed since Harris averaged 6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 17.4 minutes per game during his first two seasons with the Cavaliers. His strengths (elite quickness and handle, rebounding, jumping passing lanes for steals) and weaknesses (long-range jumper, lack of strength, streaks of wildness) remain the same, he's just been using his skill set more effectively. Just like he did during his first NBA D-League stint -- 17 games with the Canton Charge three seasons ago -- he's excelled at finishing in the paint and at the rim, only he's converted his mid-range attempts at a much higher rate (46.5% vs. 29.6%). And while he's still below-average from deep, at least he's made the wise decision to ditch many mid-range/long two-point attempts in favor of threes. Take a look at this distribution charts from this season (left) vs. 2010-11 (right):
At worst, Harris is still the solid 17-minute-per-night, second-unit playmaker that he was in Cleveland. At best, he's another Kendall Marshall: a once-highly regarded prospect who the Lakers are catching at the right time.