After a surprisingly effective rookie season, Moe Harkless entered the 13-14 season with big expectations for the Orlando Magic. As a 19 year-old rookie, Harkless displayed a raw offensive game but proved to be Orlando’s most effective perimeter defender. At 6’9″ with enviable athleticism, his potential seemed limitless. After working on his jumper and his handles in the off-season, Harkless seemed poised for a breakout campaign.
His sophomore season has been a disappointment, especially after an encouraging start. Through November, Harkless averaged over 26 minutes, 8 pts, 4 reb, and 2 stls a game. More impressively, he showed off an improved shooting touch, hitting 37.9% of his 3’s.
December has been a different story. Vaughn cut his minutes to under 17 a game, including a recent DNP – Coach’s Decision. Harkless’ confidence has plummeted with his playing time. His scoring has fallen to 4.3 per game and his 3 point shooting has regressed to just 20%.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Harkless is frustrated by the lack of playing time:
I’m obviously not happy about it. I want to play. I can’t control that.
Like many of his rotation decisions, Coach Vaughn’s explanation for the decreased playing time was vague and confusing:
There are gonna be pockets of the season where some guys won’t play [....] There’s pockets where guys will not play. There’s just not enough minutes.
There aren’t enough minutes on a rebuilding team to give one of your best prospects steady playing time? That’s a shocking lack of vision for a coach tasked with player development above all else.
There are three main reasons for Harkless’ decreased role, neither of which are directly related to his play:
- Arron Afflalo has been playing a surprising amount of small forward.
- Victor Oladipo has played his way into the starting line-up, but the point guard experiment is failing. An Oladipo and Harkless back-court is dangerously low on offensive creation.
- The team’s glut of power forwards has Tobias Harris playing small forward.
The trade deadline will clear up some of these problems, but waiting until February could have dangerous consequences for Harkless’ development. He needs steady playing time to continue to develop.
Vaughn is letting Oladipo play through his mistakes, while benching Harkless at the slightest slip-up. His inconsistent rotations have left Magic fans scratching their heads, and it is time he improved upon his game management skills. Harkless has earned playing time with his effort, defense, and improved 3-point shot. Yes, the rest of his game is raw, but there is not better way to smooth it out than playing.
What do you think? Should Moe Harkless play more? Let us know in the comments section or reach out on twitter @rj_infantino.