When Joe Harris was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Wahoo fans were thrilled to have an additional Hoo in the NBA. Even better, it was apparent that Joe was in a good situation on the Cavs, especially with LeBron James around to both mentor Harris...and create some space around the perimeter. Most of us familiar with Harris thought he'd see success. From his four years at UVA, Harris demonstrated not just a perfect shooting stroke, but the athleticism, strength, and smarts required at the next level.
That said, not even the most optimistic of the Wahoo faithful predicted Joe Harris's hot start in the pros.
The season is young, as the Cavs have played just 8 games so far, winning 5. And that's all it's taken for Harris to go from benchwarmer to an increasingly prominent member of the rotation. Joe played a total of 7 minutes during his first 5 games, making one field goal. (Here it is!):
However, in the three games since, Harris played a combined 60 minutes, shooting 7-14 from the field, including 6-12 from behind the arc. Overall, the Cavs are scoring an absurd 1.43 PPP with him in the lineup.
Last Monday, he hit his first NBA three-pointer. That was especially cool coming off an assist from LeBron:
Friday night, he was on the floor for the final minutes in a come-from-behind nailbiter against the Celtics. On the game's final play, with Cleveland clinging to a one-point lead, he defended Rondo, who received the in-bounds pass. Harris successfully stopped his progress, then made a smart switch on to 6'9" Jared Sullinger, holding him at bay while the clock expired. (You can watch at 1:15 in ESPN's highlights)
These quotes from Coach Blatt and LeBron James are...about as nice as you could hope for:
LeBron: "Joe Harris is gonna be a big piece for our team. We love that we have him"— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) November 15, 2014
David Blatt on Joe Harris: "(I) believe in the kid. He played with the kind of physicality and intensity we need. He played for the team"— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) November 15, 2014
In Saturday night's matchup with Mike Scott's Atlanta Hawks, Joe Harris shot 4-5 from three-point range, finishing with 12 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal. Here are Harris's highlights from that game (look at LeBron chasing Joe down to high-five him at :31...#SWOON):
One week (and three games) after he had only played seven career minutes, the following quote appeared in the Akron Beacon-Journal:
With the way he is progressing and as well as he is playing, Joe Harris will be the starting shooting guard sooner rather than later. Much sooner. As in within a couple of weeks (or less), one source with knowledge of the team's thinking said. At least one member of the Cavs' brain trust is already in favor of the switch.
Read the full article, linked above. It goes on to describe the defensive effort and offensive tools that support more minutes for Harris...and an eventual slot at shooting guard in the starting lineup.
The fact is, just as Joe Harris was a perfect leader for the (Virginia) Cavaliers, Joe Harris is a perfect role player for the (Cleveland) Cavaliers. He's a cold-blooded shooter, which is all he needs to be, especially on a team with ball-dominant LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. James puts great value on playing with guys who are great teammates, play hard defense, and won't take the air out of the ball on offense. He's lucky to have the opportunity he has there...and (so far), he's been able to take advantage.
Check out Fear The Sword for SBNation's Cleveland Cavaliers coverage. They do a great job...and it's fun seeing Cleveland fans jump on the Harris bandwagon!