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Devin Harris

The Dallas Mavericks have named their prized rookie, Devin Harris, as their new starting point guard.  No small task, Harris will be filling the lofty shoes of the Maverick’s last point guard – some guy named Steve Nash, who was the heart and soul of the Mavericks team for the last few years, before moving on to ”greener” pastures in Phoenix. 

Harris was the 5th overall draft pick by the Washington Wizards this past 2004 NBA draft.  Dallas owner Mark Cuban pulled the trigger on a trade with the Wizards, acquiring Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, and Christian Laettner for Antawn Jamison, who was the 6th man of the year for Dallas last season.  Acquiring Harris made it easier for Cuban to let Nash go. 

Harris arrived as a highly-touted point guard after spending three years at Wisconsin University.  There, he has been the starting point guard since he arrived as a freshman.  In his final year – his junior year – he averaged 19.5 points, 4.4 assists, and 4.3 rebounds a game, while shooting 46% and 36% from the field and three-point line respectively.  He earned the Big 10 Player of the Year, leading Wisconsin to 25 wins.

There is no denying his athleticism.  At 6’3”, Harris possesses excellent quickness and leaping ability.  His ball handling ability is unquestioned, displaying an assortment of crossovers and spins to gain separation from his man.  He has the lateral quickness, long arms, and swift hands to become a defensive stopper.  Known predominantly for his scoring ability, the Mavericks realize it will take time for Harris to understand the point guard position, where he will be relied on to distribute the ball to their plethora of scorers before looking for his own shot.  Another flaw pointed out by many scouts is that he sometimes becomes reliant on the 3-point shot rather than penetrating the lane.   

When the Mavericks acquired Jason Terry from Atlanta in a trade that saw Antoine Walker depart, it was widely assumed that Terry would become the starting point guard.  After all, here is an already established guard, although not a true point guard, with a career average of 16.2 points per game (higher than Nash’s) and 5.5 assists per game.  However, Harris came out on top winning the starting spot after an excellent preseason performance. 

Visibly improving with each game, fans caught glimpse of who could be their starting point guard for a long time.  The most impressive aspect about Harris’ game has been his quick hands on the defensive end.  Over the last 5 preseason games, Harris has registered almost 4 steals a game.  He’s been no slouch on offense either scoring in the double-digits in the last 5 preseason games, with highlights of 24 points against Sacramento and 20 points against Milwaukee.  He has also averaged 5 assists in those games. 

Overall, he was the vastly superior choice over Terry.  Maverick coach, Don Nelson, rarely starts rookies, but he has been quite taken over Harris’ ability.  I think he’ll be my point guard for many, many years, said Nelson.  Nelson noted that the last rookie to start an opener for him was Tim Hardaway, in Golden State.  

Yesterday, the Mavericks opened their regular season campaign at home against the Sacramento Kings.  The Mavericks won the game 107-98 thanks to a solid game by Harris.  Harris played 30 minutes, scored 8 points and had 7 assists.  However, his most important contribution was his defense against Sacramento’s all-star guard, Mike Bibby, who was limited to 8 points.