A closer look at Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless
PORTLAND, Ore. – This wasn’t a good season for the Blazers. The team didn’t live up to expectations and the majority of the players on the team came up short in that department as well.
The Blazers, however, finished the regular season with 41 wins, the picture of mediocrity. The team played much better after the All-Star break with an 18-8 record, fourth-best in the NBA. The Blazers were especially lifted by their performance in March, when Portland won 13 of 16 games. But even though the Blazers finished the regular season strong and made the playoffs, the season was a disappointment overall.
Some of the grades for the Blazers for this season won’t be pretty. They reflect the reality of what happened all season, not just in March.
The good news is the book has closed on the 2016-17 season. The players can work this summer to improve their games. The front office can make smart moves to improve the roster. Everyone gets a fresh slate, a blank report card, when training camp begins next October.
GRAPHIC INSTRUCTIONS: Take a stroll around the court and check out the player cards for the nine rotation members of the 2016-17 Portland Trail Blazers. Click on each card to open a larger version. Click on the card again to flip it over and see the back. To close the card you’re looking at, click it one more time. Mobile users, rotate your phone to see the full graphic.
- Staring small forward
- Player impact estimate score: 6.9
- Grade: D
Harkless continued to improve in his second season in Portland. He started more games (69) and played more minutes (28.9 per game) than in any other season in his career. For that reason, he set or tied career highs in nearly every statistical category in his fifth season in the league.
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward averaged 10.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. He was also an efficient shooter, making more than half of his attempts from the field.
One major area of weakness for Harkless during his first season in Portland was his 3-point shooting, when he shot only 27.9 percent on 1.9 attempts per game. To Harkless’ credit, he made significant strides there, shooting 35.1 percent from the 3-point line this season. He was a moderate-volume 3-point shooter as well, averaging 2.5 attempts per game, so his improved shooting was a boost for the Blazers.
Harkless is a versatile defender who guards multiple positions for the Blazers, but advanced stats indicate he's not one of the team's better defensive players. The team allowed 108.3 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, the 10th-worst mark on the team. He also was one of the team's worst isolation defenders, averaging 1.0 point per possession in isolation, which tied for the worst mark among Blazers' rotation players and was in the bottom quarter of the league.
The four-year, $40 contract Harkless signed before the 2016-17 season is a good value. He’s a versatile role player. He showed he can improve during the offseason, as evidenced by his 3-point shooting this past season.
If Harkless is going to continue to start and play big minutes for the Blazers, he needs to be more consistent. There was a stretch in November and December when Harkless scored in double figures in 13 consecutive games. During those 13 games, he averaged 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds. He also took 11.5 shots per game during that stretch, much higher than his 8.1 average for the season. If he wants to reach his potential, Harkless needs to demonstrate that kind of production across an entire season.
Blazers report cards
Note: Report cards weren’t made for Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier or Tim Quarterman, because they played too few games and minutes for an accurate assessment of their value.
How we determined each player's grade
These grades reflect where each player fits within the hierarchy of the league, as judged by statistical data. The NBA statistic “Player Impact Estimate” (PIE) was the data point used to calculate each grade.
According to NBA.com, PIE “measures a player’s overall statistical contribution” while they’re on the court. It is a comparable stat to Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
The formula to compute the statistic incorporates points, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, personal fouls and turnovers.
For context, Russell Westbrook had the highest PIE in the NBA with a score of 23, followed by Anthony Davis with a score of 19.2. An average player in the NBA, according to the PIE statistic, had a score between 10 and 11 and included players like Otto Porter Jr. and Marcin Gortat.
19 PIE and up — A+
17.7-18.9 — A
16.4-17.6 — A-
15.1-16.3 — B+
13.8-15.0 — B
12.5-13.7 — B-
11.2-12.4 — C+
9.9-11.1 — C
8.6-9.8 — C-
7.3-8.5 — D+
6-7.2 — D
4.7-5.9 — D-
3.4-4.6 — F+
2.1-3.3 — F
0-2.0 — F-
Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. Follow him on Twitter here.