After the Nets spent last season trying to build up Joe Harris’ confidence, he set a goal to shoot 40 percent from 3-point range. Turns out he’s been better than even he expected.
Harris has been the Nets’ shooter this season, and the NBA’s most accurate in 2018. It’s no coincidence the Nets have been at their best lately as the red-hot Harris has gotten more minutes; his development bodes well for their future — assuming they re-sign the unrestricted free agent this summer.
“We’re looking at the end of the season right now as momentum going into the offseason and for next year. We want to end this year on a good note,” Harris said before sitting out Monday’s home finale versus the Bulls with a sore left ankle. “We know how important these games are for us, for our organization and for us in terms of we want to move forward.”
Harris is averaging 10.8 points on 49.1 percent shooting, hitting 41.9 percent from deep and 82.7 percent from the foul line, all career highs.
“He’s been doing his thing,” D’Angelo Russell said. “He’s open a lot, so to get him the ball a lot is my job.”
HarrisPaul J. Bereswill
Harris has hit 46.7 percent from behind the arc since Jan. 1, best in the league among players with at least 100 attempts.
“At the beginning of the year I felt I could shoot above 40 percent from 3. That doesn’t happen unless you’re getting room and rhythm looks. A lot of that is a credit to the facilitators and the way we play, guys moving the ball,” the 26-year-old Harris said.
“When you have a point guard like D’Angelo or Spencer [Dinwiddie] … it makes my job a lot easier. I knew coming into the year I’d put in a lot of work. That was the mark I wanted to get and I felt I should be shooting at that level, honestly. … It goes back to shooting with confidence, being aggressive, hunting shots.”
Harris is averaging 16.9 points on 62.7 percent shooting and 56.8 percent from deep in his past seven games. More than any Net, he’s taken to their philosophy on high-value shots, his 62.7 percent on drives best in the league among players with 100 attempts. And on the other end, he’s played the best defense of his career.
“Guys throw a one-hitter or a two-hitter: He’s on his game. And he’s on his game all-around,” Kenny Atkinson said. “He was great defensively in Chicago [on Saturday]. Not good, great; moving his feet, competing. And the way he’s finishing at the rim is important, too. When he drives to the basket now, he’s so under control; he has a plan, he knows what he’s doing. He’s really post-All-Star Error: Break shortcode syntax invalid hit his sweet spot, hit his stride. Thrilled with the way he’s playing … great basketball.”
On a $1.5 million salary, Harris has played himself into a big raise. But the Nets have an edge as the team that developed him from scrap heap to coveted free agent. Both Harris and agent Mark Bartelstein told The Post he’s happy in Brooklyn.
And while multiple league sources estimated he could triple or quadruple his salary, that’s a modest cap hold that won’t hinder the Nets as they potentially go into the summer with $14 million-$15 million to spend. They can withstand that tiny cap hold, settle other free-agency business and then use Harris’ early Bird rights to ink him outside of the salary cap, as long as both sides are patient.
And we’ve seen general manager Sean Marks is nothing if not patient.
While Harris and Atkinson hope he can play Wednesday’s finale in Boston, it won’t change the Nets’ valuation of him.
“I don’t really look into it at all,” Harris said. “The coaches and the front office already have a pretty good idea as to what I bring to the table. I don’t foresee that changing a ton.”