Joe Harris, 6-foot-6 shooting guard, Virginia
2013-14 stats: 12.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, .441 FG%, .400 3P%
The face of Virginia’s resurgence back to being a college-basketball power, Harris was one of the better seniors in the country last season. Also one of the nation’s top outside shooters, his size, strength and mature game appear to be NBA ready, but as in the case of many four-year players, there will be questions about how close he is to his ceiling in comparison to younger prospects. After being a remarkably consistent performer throughout his career, however, the coach’s son will get the opportunity to show that his skill set translates into being a solid role player on the next level.
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Career highlights: A signature recruit of head coach Tony Bennett—hailing from Washington state; Bennett previously coached at Washington State—Harris was a freshman starter at Virginia, averaging 10.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range and logging 16 double-figure scoring outings, then playing second fiddle to current Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott as a sophomore, averaging 11.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as the Cavaliers made it to the NCAA Tournament, scoring in double figures 21 times along the way. As a junior, Harris became the team’s star, averaging 16.3 points and four rebounds per game, while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from three-point range, earning first team all-ACC honors in the process, with 31 double-figure outings and a 36-point outburst to beat Duke highlighting the campaign. His senior year, Harris averaged 12 points per game on a more well-balanced team, but still earned second team all-conference accolades and led Virginia to the ACC Tournament title, winning the MVP award and helping the Cavaliers advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Strengths: An excellent shooter with deep range, Harris is tremendous with his feet set, but also moves well without the ball and is accurate coming off screens. He can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim when defenders close out on him, score inside against smaller players, make solid decisions off the dribble, finish in transition and use his strength to get to the line. Although he isn’t the quickest player, Harris has great size for his position, is willing to contribute on the glass and coming from a system that stresses defense, uses body position to make things tough for opponents on the defensive end of the court.
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Weaknesses: Harris has a good understanding of the game and knows his limitations, but some things, such as being able to create separation, elevating over defenders, making plays for himself and being able to stay in front of more explosive athletes, will always be challenges for him. On the defensive end of the floor, he can struggle when isolated against quick, dynamic offensive players, though he is a solid team defender. Offensively, he isn’t the type of player that can create off the dribble, make plays for others or finish in the lane over length.
Draft projection: A candidate to be a second-round pick, Harris’ fate will be determined by whether enough high-upside players are gambled upon or whether a team is enamored by knowing what he can bring to the table immediately upon entering the NBA. Whether or not he’s drafted, Harris will be able to make shots from the outset of his career, and if he demonstrates that in summer league and training camp, he should end up on a roster. His high basketball I.Q., strong frame and knowledge of how to minimize his weaknesses through his intangibles, motor and team concepts will make him a valuable, role-playing specialist in the right situation.