Nets will want Joe Harris back, if they can afford him

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Part 7 of a series analyzing the Brooklyn Nets:

Joe Harris is a pending free agent, one who likely will get a big raise this summer. But the sharpshooter wants to re-sign with the Nets, partly to take a shot at a title playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“Yeah, definitely! Why wouldn’t you?” Harris asked rhetorically before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Obviously those are guys who I’ve gotten close with now that I’ve been with them this past year. They’re obviously incredible players. You see what they’re able to do when they are healthy and are playing. I don’t see that there’s anybody in the NBA who wouldn’t want to play with those guys.”

Durant has not played at all this season, and Irving played just 20 games before undergoing shoulder surgery that’s presumably season-ending. If both return to form next season, they could make the Nets contenders.

Harris would love to be a part of it. But that could be costly for the Nets — or Harris.

Making $7.6 million in the second season of a two-year deal, Harris will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. When Nets general manager Sean Marks appeared on WFAN and was asked about taking care of Harris, he replied, “There you go, absolutely.”

It may not be that simple, even for a starter who exemplifies the Nets’ vaunted player-development ethos.

Yes, the Nets hold Harris’ Bird Rights, so they can go over the salary cap to re-sign him. But he’ll likely garner a significant raise on the open market, the Nets are headed toward the luxury tax and the cap is bound to shrink due to the coronavirus suspension.

Joe HarrisPaul J. Bereswill

Harris leads the Nets in plus-minus (plus-111), and was positing career-bests in points, rebounds and minutes. He was playing his best right before the season got shut down, averaging 15.2 points on 44.8 percent shooting from 3-point range since Feb. 1.

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In Harris’ last six games, he upped those figures to 16.3 and 47.2 percent from deep. He is the perfect floor-spacing complement for stars like Durant and Irving, who joined him as finalists for the Olympic team. Now his first chance to play alongside Durant would be in Brooklyn, not Tokyo.

Always in motion, Harris covered the ninth-most ground on offense in the NBA by the time play was halted. He shot 47.4 percent from deep last season, becoming the first Net to lead the NBA in that category and just the third man to top the league and also claim the 3-point contest at All-Star weekend.

The 28-year-old Harris also has a relationship with two of the presumptive candidates for the Nets coaching job. Tyronn Lue was the Cavaliers’ head coach and Phil Handy was an assistant when Harris was playing in Cleveland. Could Harris be reunited with either next season in Brooklyn?

“They’re both excellent coaches, Ty Lue especially,” Harris said. “Playing in this league, being an assistant for a long time, just the way [Lue] was able to relate with the players, especially just day-to-day was pretty unique in terms of a coaching perspective. I always liked that about him, just his ability to jell and mesh with everybody.

“He seemed like, to me, to be one of those guys when he did play he was probably close with everybody in the locker room, just the way he was able to interact with every single guy on the team.”

Joe Harris

Position: Small forward

Height: 6-6

Age: 28

2019-20 statistics: 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 47.1 FG%, 41.2 3-point FG%

Contract status: Second year of a two-year $16 million deal