Devin Harris is asked how he will fit on a team that already has Jeff Teague and lets out a chuckle before the question is even finished.
Apparently, he’s heard this one a few times before.
“They’ve been talking a lot about playing us together,” Harris said. “That’s something I’m accustomed to doing. I played with Jason Terry in Dallas with a small backcourt. We played a similar type way, getting up and down the floor. I think it can work out the same way [with Teague]. Obviously he’s one of the few remaining guys on the team that knows the system and knows it well. I think if we play together it can be a good tandem.”
The Hawks can only hope Teague-Harris works out the same way as Harris-Terry. In 2006-07, their one full year starting together, both Harris and Terry had strong seasons as Dallas won 67 games and scored 111.3 points per 100 possessions (second in the league).
According to Basketball-Reference, in 2006-07 Dallas used nine lineups in which Harris and Terry shared the backcourt for at least 20 minutes. The Mavericks were +380 with those lineups.
(Those nine lineups, by the way, played at a plodding pace of 88.4. That probably has a lot to do with Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard gobbling up a big chunk of the possessions.)
Harris had the most efficient scoring season of his career in 2006-07 with a true shooting percentage of 57.4. He averaged 14.6 points per 36 minutes with a usage percentage of 19.1.
Terry’s 58.7 true shooting percentage in 2006-07 is the second-best mark of his career. He averaged 17.1 points per 36 minutes with a usage percentage of 21.3.
Harris said he and Terry had no issues about who handled the ball.
“Whoever gets it pretty much goes and runs the break and the other guy sprints,” Harris said. “We didn’t worry too much about who brought the ball up. If it was halfcourt sets, usually I brought the ball up he’s the better shooter of us two.”
Evaluating defenders depends heavily on a team context, but Harris and Terry worked as a defensive tandem for the Mavs in 2006-07.
Dallas allowed 1.9 points more per possession with Terry on the court in 2006-07. His opponent PER was 14.5 as the shooting guard, presumably because he cross-matched with Harris actually guarding twos, and 16.9 as the point guard.
The best available evidence suggests the small backcourt of Harris and Terry worked quite well for the Mavericks in 2006-07. That doesn’t mean Harris-Teague will work for the Hawks, of course, and there are reasons to be skeptical that those two will enjoy the same comfortable fit.
For one, Harris and Terry complemented each other–Harris was the relentless attacker, Terry was the sharpshooter–whereas Harris and Teague both want to get to the basket off the dribble.
In 2006-07, Harris tried 5.17 shot attempts at the rim per 36 minutes (51 percent of his attempts) and made 61 percent. By contrast, 32 percent of Terry’s field-goal attempts (343) that year were long 2s with a shooting percentage of 49, and 35 percent of Terry’s shots were 3-pointers with a true shooting percentage of 65.7.
Also, Harris isn’t the same player as he was during his Dallas days. He doesn’t go to the rim as often. His percentage of shot attempts at the rim each season since 2006-07: 42, 39, 34, 36, and 25. There’s also been a declining trend in Harris’ shooting percentage at the rim, from pretty good to poor (though he continues to be a foul magnet).
There are a couple exceptions to Harris’ dwindling numbers. He shot a career-high 37.4 percent on 3-pointers last season while attempting them at a higher rate than ever (206 in 1,689 minutes) and he shot 65 percent at the rim. Both numbers are outliers season for his career but, in regards to the 3-point shooting, it’s worth noting that Harris was more of a spot-up shooter last season.
A career-high 87 percent of Harris’ 3-pointers in 2011-12 were assisted. In addition, spot-ups were Harris’ most frequent play type in the halfcourt last season, according to Synergy Sports Technology, and his 1.09 points per possession ranked 45th in the league.
So maybe Harris can get those same spot-up opportunities this season and make them at a high clip and Teague also can have another good year spotting up for 3-pointers. And it’s possible Teague and Harris can set each other up for drives to the basket, with space created by the shooters the Hawks can put on the wing. Certainly Josh Smith and Al Horford in the post can feed either guard for spot-ups or, if defenders close hard, show-and-gos.
Or perhaps Teague and Harris can make all of that not matter so much because they push a breakneck pace (with big men who can keep up) and are disruptive enough on defense to mask their relative lack of size.
“Obviously with the shooting [Danny Ferry's] added that’s going to open up the paint for me, which is something I like to do is get in the paint and cause havoc,” Harris said. “Defensively, [we will be] getting after it and changing defenses. It’s going to be a fun way to play. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat
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