Finding players who can create offense in an efficient manner is very difficult and hugely important. Players who can do it for themselves and others are even more rare. Amazingly, the Cleveland Cavaliers have three. Kevin Love is an outstanding passer from the power forward position and can score from anywhere on the court. LeBron James is LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving averaged over 20 points and five assists per game on a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio last season.
Alas, they haven't been consistently available during the preseason. Through four games, LeBron James is the only one to see any time at all, and he's been limited to just 48 minutes. This is more than okay. The preseason ultimately doesn't mean very much. You'd love to see Love and Irving healthy, and it sounds like the former may play as early as Sunday. But all the same, the Cavs are missing that output.
It shows. The team is 0-4 in the preseason, and has been outscored by over 7 points per 100 possessions. No one is playing great, but some of the criticism has focused in on second year guard Joe Harris. He has a guaranteed contract and is all but certain to make the team. David Griffin recently praised him on NBA TV has having a great summer. So far, that hasn't translated. With guys like Jared Cunningham, Quinn Cook, and Austin Daye trying to make the team and impressing in various ways, why does Harris get a spot?
Well, the last question is more complex, but let's at least put some of Harris' struggles into context. It's been four games, and importantly, it's been four preseason games. Guys are playing for their careers, learning roles, in roles that don't fit them, etc. Harris is no exception. It's year two with David Blatt, but with Irving, James, and Love out he is being asked to do things he won't be asked to do in games that are not blowouts during the regular season.
Harris will not spend time initiating offense this season. He won't spend much time dribbling at all. His role will be to hit spot up threes, make the right pass, and perhaps pump fake a three every once in a while and then make the right pass. On the other end, he will have to rotate and find ways to defend to make up for a lack of athleticism. If he can spot up and make 40% of his threes and not be a zero defensively, he's an NBA player. That's it. That's the formula.
He is not a player who can create his own three point attempts. He will always be reliant on others to draw in defenses and do it for him. If Harris takes three pointers off the dribble in the regular season, that will be a problem. In the meantime, his preseason backcourt mate Matthew Dellavedova shares the same problems. He can't create offense either. Delly has carved out a nice niche for himself in the league by hitting open threes and working tirelessly to make up for a lack of athleticism and agility. It's a nice type of player for Harris to model. It's not a nice type of player for Harris to rely on to get the shots he needs.
None of this is to dispute that Harris has played poorly. His true shooting rate is 44.6 and he's making just 25% of his three point attempts. But it's just a few games, and it's nothing like what he will be asked to do in the regular season. It doesn't look like Harris will become a sometimes scorer in the NBA. But we knew that already.
Stats via nba.com/stats.