With James Harding joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to form the NBA’s latest Big 3, Nets small forward Joe Harris’ importance to the team’s title aspirations should not be minimized. The 6-6 small forward was averaging 15 points on 51.5% shooting when the Nets hosted the Los Angeles Clippers at the Barclays Center Tuesday night, Feb. 2.
The Nets went into the game 13-9 and third overall in the Eastern Conference having won four of their previous five games, the lone loss being a shocking 149-146 defeat to the Washington Wizards on Sunday after they led 146-141 with a little over eight seconds remaining.
With Harden sitting out on Sunday with a thigh contusion, the first game he’s missed as a Net since his debut with the team on Jan. 16 after demanding a trade from the Houston Rockets, Harris scored 30 points with five assists in the road loss to the Wizards. He made a career high eight three-pointers on 13 attempts.
Over the last three seasons, Harris, the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend 3-point contest winner, has shot over 40% from 3-point range, leading the league with at 47.4 percentage in the 2018-2019 campaign. As of Tuesday, Harris was shooting a scorching 49% from behind the three-point line.
Drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2nd round with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Harris, who was a four-year player at the University of Virginia, was signed by the Nets as a free-agent in July of 2016. He was their top priority during the most recent free-agent cycle and re-signed with them in November on a four-year, $75 million deal.
“I narrowed in with the Nets,” said Harris soon after extending his tenure with the franchise. “I didn’t even give a ton of thought to leaving. … You have to entertain other options, but my No. 1 priority was to try and come back to Brooklyn.”
With the team moving center Jarrett Allen, forward Taurean Prince and guard Caris LeVert in the Harden trade, and guard Spencer Dinwiddie out for the season after suffering a torn ACL on Dec. 27 against the Charlotte Hornets, Harris’s importance to the Nets has been amplified as their depth in both the backcourt and frontcourt has been tested.
Veteran forward Jeff Green and guard/forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot have moved up as the Nets’ top two reserves, with forward Reggie Perry and guard Larry Shamet also in the rotation.