);
Brooklyn Nets

NBA Playoffs 2020: Why Toronto Raptors fans should keep a close eye on Joe Harris in the first round

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Joe Harris (NBA Getty Images)

Prior to the season restart, I wrote about six soon-to-be free agents that the Toronto Raptors should keep an eye on through the seeding games.

One of those players? Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris, who the Raptors are going to get an even closer look at now that the two teams will face each other in the first round of the playoffs.

MORE: Raptors vs. Nets series preview

The draw with Harris is rather simple - he's one of the best shooters in the league.

The 28-year-old led the NBA in 3-point percentage (.474) in 2018-19 and is among the league leaders again this season, having made 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts to this point of the season. He's done so in decent volume in both seasons. Whereas he ranked 51st in 3-point attempts last season, Harris ranks 30th this season.

Very few of his 3s come off the dribble, but Harris isn't just a standstill shooter. Last season, only Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry averaged more points per game than him off of screens. (Anytime you're in the company of the Splash Brothers, you're doing something right). This season, he ranks behind only Terrence Ross, JJ Redick and Paul George. He's been incredibly efficient on those plays, ranking in the 97th percentile last season and the 64th percentile this season in scoring efficiency. He's also a threat to score off of handoffs.

That makes Harris someone teams have to keep tabs on at all times. There aren't many players at his position who cover as much ground as he does on offence on a nightly basis and he doesn't need much space to get his shot off standing at 6-foot-6.

MORE: Where Harris ranks among this year's best free agents

Harris isn't only a shooter either. He's improved tremendously as a driver over the last couple of seasons, to the point where he's comfortable taking players off the dribble when they run him off the 3-point line. He's not a big-time leaper - Harris has a total of 10 dunks through six seasons of his career - but he has the size to finish strong at the rim.

The result: Harris is averaging a career-best 14.4 points per game this season.

Harris, of course, is only an option for the Raptors should Fred VanVleet leave Toronto in free agency. While Harris is neither the defender nor passer that VanVleet is, he'd give the Raptors a knockdown shooter next to Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam in the starting lineup, as well as some more size in the backcourt.

What remains to be seen is what type of market there will be for Harris.

The Raptors could have a decent amount of money to spend depending on what happens with VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, each of whom will be unrestricted free agents in the offseason, but there are other teams out there who will have more cap space to work with, such as the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat.

Shooters are always in high demand, and Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans might be the only pure shooter better than Harris who will be available in this year's free agent class. There is a world in which the Raptors lose VanVleet and turn their attention to Harris, only for him to sign a more lucrative deal elsewhere, whether it's with the Nets or another team.

Not that that should prevent the Raptors from pursuing him should they be in the market for a shooting guard in the offseason. Harris was already going to be near the top of their scouting report in the first round as one of Brooklyn's best players, but they have more than one reason to keep a close eye on him.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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