The New York Knicks have reportedly spoken to Portland about a trade involving Moe Harkless. Here are five stats to justify the move.The highest net rating on the Portland Trail Blazers in 2016-17 didn’t belong to Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. It belonged to Moe Harkless. Portland outscored opponents by 3.4 points per 100 possessions with Harkless on the court and were outscored by 4.3 points per 100 possessions with him off.
According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, the New York Knicks have discussed the possibility of adding the potential three-and-D wing threat.
Now don’t overreact. Nobody’s saying Harkless is more valuable than Lillard or McCollum. However, the Trail Blazers were a one-dimensional team (11th in ORtg and 21st in DRtg), so help from a solid defender on the wing was huge.
The Knicks could use that defense. They could use everything that Harkless (one of the NBA’s Swiss army knife types) brings to the table. We’ll get into that soon.
These are five stats that justify adding the Queens, New York native.
1. Post Up Efficiency
A common theme in Harkless’ breakout season was his improvement on the offensive end. One particular area where he upgraded was his back to the basket game.
According to NBA.com’s tracking data, Harkless only recorded 23 total post up possessions during the 2015-16 season. He shot 5 of 14 for a 35.4 percent clip.
He showed that he had worked on that area of this game during the break. In 2016-17, he recorded a team-leading 97 post up possessions. Harkless shot 56.3 percent and finished in the 74th percentile of efficiency.
This season he had 269 touches in the post. In 2015-16, he had just 102, and in 2014-15 it was only 38.
Harkless even played well on defense with his back to the basket. He limited opponents to 31.5 percent shooting on post up plays and finished in the 78th percentile of efficiency points per possession.
2. Three-Point Shooting
2016-17 was Harkless’ fifth season in the Association. He was never known as a sharpshooter during his first four.
He was exactly 30 percent from three-point range on 467 attempts from beyond the arc. In 279 games Harkless never found his shooting stroke.
The 24-year-old embraced the modern game in 2016-17. He made 68 of his 194 attempts for a career-high 35.1 percent conversion rate.
Harkless is still very young and coming into his prime. If he continues to improve on that shot, which just hit the league average for the first time, he could be a real threat offensively.
An odd stat that’s worth noting about Harkless is his struggles on corner threes. In case you didn’t know, the three-point line is shortest in the corner. However, in 2016-17 Harkless was just 27 for 90 (30 percent) from the corners.
That’s brutal. I guess he should stick to above the break triples because he’s crushing it on those. Per NBA.com, he was 40 of 102 (39.2 percent).
3. Offensive Rebounding
You can always use help on the offensive glass. He was the beneficiary of misses from Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Harkless was in the top ten in offensive rebounds per game for small forwards for the last two seasons. He picked up a lot of garbage buckets around the rim.
According to tracking data from NBA.com, Harkless had 70 attempted putbacks. He made 38 (12 percent of his total FGM) of them, so not an outstanding rate but not a horrible one either.
416 of Harkless’ 624 FGA (.667) came from inside the restricted area and behind the three-point line in 2016-17. You know what you’re getting with him on the offensive side of the ball.
Harkless doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be successful, and on the Knicks, that’s a good thing because he’ll be far from one of the top options.
He’s used to playing with ball dominant guys (Lillard and McCollum) so dealing with Carmelo Anthony should be a breeze.
The forward’s career usage percentage is 15.2 percent. Last season it was at 15.1 percent. For context, on the Knicks that would’ve ranked him behind stars like Sasha Vujacic and Justin Holiday.
He was just fifth on the team in touches and seventh in time of possession while averaging less than one dribble per touch. The real sign of a spot up shooter.
5. The Hustle Stats
NBA.com’s hustle stats have become something special since their addition to the analytics world roughly two years ago.
They measure contested shots, charges drawn, loose balls recovered, and screen assists amongst other things. It’s all the things that we never thought would show up on a stat sheet.
This is the stuff that Harkless thrives at. He was first on the Trail Blazers in deflections and second in contested shots. He was also third in loose balls recovered behind only Lillard and McCollum.
Harkless has a way to go to become a legitimate defensive stopper, but his hard work should help him get there sooner.