In his rookie season, Maurice Harkless impressed talent evaluators with his length and athleticism. Harkless’s wingspan helped him rack up blocks and steals, while using his athleticism to attack the rim and rebound above average for his position. However, Harkless struggled shooting from the field and at the line.
Harkless has the ability to eventually become one of the top swingmen in the league by exploiting opponents with his supreme athleticism, but he’ll first have to make huge improvements in his shooting form. Without a reliable shot, teams are going to sag off of Harkless this year, knowing he’s only dangerous when driving to the hoop.
Here’s a compilation of Harkless shots put together by Swish Scout during his first and only year at St. Johns.
Harkless’s release is the most obvious flaw in his shooting form. He pushes most of his shots, leaving his hand straight up in the air instead of flicking his wrist as the ball leaves his fingers. The best example of this is at the 1:55 mark
Unfortunately, Harkless’s problem isn’t just a simple flick of the wrist. In fact, his wonky release is largely the result of other inconsistencies robbing his shooting form.
Maurice’s struggles start with the width of his feet. Sometimes, (usually in spot-up situations) he’ll shoot with an extra-wide base accompanied with lots of knee flexion, causing too much lift on his shot (0:15, and 0:27). Having lift is good, but for the long-armed, 6′ 9″ Harkless, it’s too much power. As a result, Moe ends up pushing the ball instead of flicking his wrist at release to keep his shot from going too long. It’s key that Harkless starts shooting consistently with his feet shoulder-width apart.
Maurice also struggles to bend his shooting elbow far enough on his shot. As Harkless elevates, his shooting elbow should be flexed so that his forearm and his upper arm form a 90-degree angle. There should also be a 90-degree bend in the wrist so that his shooting hand is parallel with his upper arm. The added bend in the elbow will almost force Harkless to flick his wrist as he releases the ball. He especially struggles with this principle on his mid-range shots (0:36). His form is actually a little better when he’s behind the arc.
However, the most crucial flaw in Harkless’s shooting form might also be the hardest to recognize. Harkless rests the ball in the palm of his hand when he shoots, therefore, he has no idea how the ball is going to come off his hand. Instead, the ball should be resting on the tip of his fingers so that there’s a visible space between the ball and the palm of his hand. The benefit of shooting with just the fingers is two-fold. First, shooting becomes more accurate because the ball will always roll the middle finger last. Second, it forces a shooter to flick their wrist in order to get enough power and rotation. If Moe tried to “push” the ball using only fingertips, his shot wouldn’t even reach the rim.
There’s still hope for the young 20 year-old to develop an outside game. Guys like Jason Kidd and Rip Hamilton drastically improved their outside game after entering the league and Moe has been
tweaking reconstructing his jumper in the offseason. However, Magic fans are going to have to be patient, because it’s not a quick fix.