Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris is currently among the most accurate shooters in the NBA because of his ability to score off screens.
Only two players in the NBA (Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry) have scored more points per game shooting off screens. Harris is currently averaging 4.1 points per game on this play type, which is more than seven different NBA teams so far this season.
“I like to watch guys who move without the ball really well like Klay or JJ Redick or Kyle Korver,” Harris explained to HoopsHype. “Good shooters are often good shooters because they’re aggressive at hunting and seeking shots. The best shooters in the league are constantly moving without the ball.”
Watch Harris closely and you’ll notice just how often he is able to find an open look by zipping around the perimeter.
“You scheme things for your players and what their strengths are,” Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson told HoopsHype. “Joe has definitely improved coming off screens. We are close to the top of the league in off-ball screen [frequency] and it fits our personnel because of our shooters.”
As noted by Atkinson, the Nets currently rank third among all teams with 8.1 possessions per game finished with someone shooting off a screen. Harris has finished approximately one-third of his offensive possessions shooting off screens, producing 1.41 points per possession. That ranks as the best among all players (minimum: 30 possessions) in this offense.
“I know the situations I’m going to be getting shots through our offense,” said Harris. “Whether it’s staggers away or on flares, a lot of the actions are coming off screens for me. My pregame shooting routine is geared around the shots I’m going to get in the games.”
Since he signed with the Nets, Harris has worked closely with Brooklyn assistant coach Jordan Ott over the past three seasons. Ott was previously with the Atlanta Hawks and worked extensively with Korver.
When Nets teammate Jared Dudley spoke to HoopsHype, he compared him to Redick. According to Dudley, Harris has a unique slashing skill set that makes him a versatile threat because his defenders cannot just guard him on the perimeter.
“He has the ability to run full speed, turn and twist at a high level, shooting off screens,” explained Dudley. “But what makes him so intriguing is that he can put the ball on the floor, too. He is attacking. He is a way better driver than he gets credit for. He can finish at the rim and he has a floater.”
Of course, someone shooting off a screen needs a teammate to set him up well. That’s where former lottery pick Ed Davis comes in. Harris acknowledges how much his new teammate has helped him improve as a shooter.
“My game is predicated on other people. Whether it’s Spencer Dinwiddie or D’Angelo Russell or Caris LeVert facilitating and I’m spotting up or it’s me flying around and I’m flying off screens,” explained Harris. “I’m not going to be making a lot of those shots if the screens aren’t good. My teammates can often get good contact and good angles, and Ed has always been one of the best at setting screens.”
The big man has averaged 6.0 screen assists per 36 minutes, which ranks Top 15 (minimum: 100 minutes) among all players this season. When the Portland Trail Blazers failed to re-sign Davis last offseason, there’s a reason guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum publicly expressed their dissatisfaction. The 29-year-old makes life easier for his backcourt.
“It’s something that I do take pride in because I’m not a scorer,” Davis said. “I try to help other guys get high-quality shots and open looks.”
He has shared the court with Harris for 177 minutes this season. During that time, Brooklyn has outscored opponents by 3.6 points per 100 possessions. While flanked by Davis, Harris is averaging 18.7 points with 3.2 three-pointers per 36 minutes while shooting 50.0 percent from downtown.
“I started to see how he moves and how quickly he gets his shot off,” Davis said. “I’m just there trying to get him any clean look because once he gets his feet squared, there’s a good chance it is going in. My job is not that hard with him.”
Davis told HoopsHype that when he was on the Memphis Grizzlies, point guard Mike Conley used to encourage him to hold screens for as long as possible to help create open looks for their offense.
Then, when he played alongside Lillard and McCollum on the Blazers, Davis said that he learned different coverages – including how to adapt, flip a screen or slip out. His ability to set an effective screen has helped Harris become elite on this play type, too.
Overall, Harris is shooting 57-for-126 (45.2 percent) on three-pointers so far this season. In fact, he has been one of the most effective players in the league from above the arc.
There are 58 players who have at least 100 attempts on above-the-arc three-pointers thus far. Only two (Curry and San Antonio’s Bryn Forbes) have been more accurate than Harris.
“I wish I could buy his jump shot from him,” joked Davis. “I would spend everything in my account for that.”