East Rutherford, N.J. -- The Nets today acquired their point guard of the future - and a young and burgeoning talent - in Devin Harris. The 6-3, 185 pound guard turns 25 years-old on February 27th. Harris was the centerpiece of the deal for New Jersey but the team also received two first round picks, flexibility, and other players, including Desagna Diop, Trenton Hassell, and Maurice Ager. Jason Kidd, Antoine Wright, and Malik Allen went to Dallas in the deal.
In his fourth season, Harris has shown a steady ascent in the league. In 39 starts as Dallas’ point guard this season he is averaging 14.4 points on 48 percent shooting and 5.3 assists per game. Last season, he started 61 games for a Mavericks team that notched 67 wins and averaged 10.2 points and 3.7 assists.
“This trade provides us with immediate help, most notably with the acquisition of Devin Harris, who we consider one of the rising young point guards in the NBA,” said Nets President Rod Thorn.
“Harris's numbers have improved each of his four years in the league, and we feel that he has a significant upside. This trade also will give us two future first round draft picks and will give us flexibility to improve our roster.”
Harris has been out since January 27th with a bone bruise on his left ankle, and his absence – and hence, importance to the team - has been clearly evident. Before he went out, Dallas was averaging 100.8 points per game; since he as been out, they were nearly 20 points per game lower.
Said Mavericks Head Coach Avery Johnson to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "Even though a lot of the point guards are making the All-Star team -- and I'm not saying he's on that level yet -- but he was very competitive with any guard in the league at his position offensively and defensively."
"He puts so much pressure on the defense with his speed," Mavs player development coach and TV analyst Brad Davis told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "He can turn a made basket into a fast break at the other end where you don't have to get into your offense. A point guard can't play him one-on-one when he's coming down with a full head of speed, so, all of a sudden, you've got people sucking in from the wings and he can make a pass in the corner.”
"You're looking at a wide-open shot with six to seven seconds gone on the 24-second clock without getting into your offense. And if the defense stays home on the shooters, Devin's improved so much that he can finish at the basket at all kinds of different angles."
With Harris entering the picture as the newest Net point guard, it would be remiss to not talk of Jason Kidd’s importance to the Nets over the past half-decade. Six consecutive playoff appearances, four division titles, and two appearances in the NBA Finals is an exceptional resume. Then there’s the uncommon will, the passion, the triple-doubles, and the ability to make teammates better, which are aspects he brought to the court every night.
But -- it had been different this season and Kidd made comments at different points of the campaign which belied his unhappiness with the situation. The soon-to-be 35 year-old sees his career mortality and wanted to be elsewhere.
At a Season Ticket Holder Town Hall event last Monday, Thorn said of Kidd, “you read the newspapers, you see what’s transpired. He obviously would like to be someplace else.”
“What happens with an athlete…particularly a great athlete…is you only have a finite number of years to play. And as you get towards the end of that, you starting thinking back to what could have been, might have been, would have been, and should have been.”
And while Thorn said he does not make a trade just because a player asks for one, he offered, “Would we trade he or anybody else if we felt it would be in the short term or long range best interest of the team? Yes.”
And mere days later, the Nets have done just that. They have their point guard of the future.
Why the Trade Makes Sense?
New Jersey Grabbed its Point Guard of the Future
Devin Harris turns 25 years-old this month and his numbers have shown a steady ascent in his four years in the league. He is still very young and should only get better, which bodes well as he is already averaging career-highs of 14.4 points, 5.3 assists and 1.44 steals while shooting 48.3% from the field.
“Devin’s got good size, great quickness, he’s a good defender,” said Rod Thorn. “Can push the ball, he’s very athletic.”
Two First Round Draft Picks
Along with Harris and other players – including Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, DeSagana Diop and Keith Van Horn – the Nets were able to add two first round draft picks (2008 and 2010) in the deal. Thorn said that the first pick is lottery-protected; the second one is not protected.
“You assume that they’re going to make the playoffs,” said Thorn. “So we’ll probably get it this year and then the second one will be in 2010.”
Flexibility to Improve Roster
The move improves the Nets Salary Cap number. By moving namely Jason Kidd, it has lowered their payroll and in turn will help New Jersey add pieces as it moves into the future.
Jason Kidd Wanted to Move On
Kidd made no bones about the fact that he no longer wanted to play here. Nets President Rod Thorn talked to that effect today when he said that – at least since December – it felt like Kidd’s heart was just not in it to play here any longer.
“I know Jason, you guys know Jason and over the course of time it became evident that his heart wasn’t in it,” said Rod Thorn. “With him - the kind of player that he is - if his heart isn’t in it, then he isn’t the same player. It became evident to me that his heart wasn’t in it here anymore over the course of this season. It is not to denigrate his play at all, obviously he made the All-Star team, he had a whole bunch of triple doubles, but the element that separates Jason Kidd from most is the intensity and the heart.”
What the Experts Say?
“(The Mavericks) lose Harris' capacity to move his feet fast. Ten years younger than Kidd, who's more effective guarding bigger people these days, Devin bothered Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Allen Iverson, if not Baron Davis. He beats them to the hole, too, second only to Leandro Barbosa.”
“Harris…would be one of the East's elite point guards right off the bat. Detroit's Chauncey Billups and Toronto's Jose Calderon (check out his stats if you've never heard of him) are the only East points I'd take over Harris.”
Per 40 minutes, Harris averages nearly seven points more (than Kidd); that's huge. He also gets to the line more than twice as often and shoots a far better percentage from the field. His true shooting percentage of 59.2 dwarfs Kidd's 48.3. Think about that difference for a second -- for every nine shots they take (including free-throw sessions), Harris has a one-point advantage.
Finally, Harris is a huge plus at the defensive end, where he has the quickness to defend the Parkers, Pauls and Nashes of the West and was second in the league in offensive fouls drawn last season, according to 82games.com. By my methods, he was the best defensive point guard in the league in 2006-07. Unfortunately, the one guy he struggled against was Baron Davis, a fact that may be seared in the Mavs' memories given how last season ended.
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