The Wizards have only made two draft picks over the past three seasons, so finding a way to infuse the Wizards’ roster with more young talent is important. That’s why it’s nice to hear Washington is interested in 23-year-old Maurice Harkless, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:
The Pistons, Wizards, Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks are among the teams interested in restricted free agent Moe Harkless, per sources.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 1, 2016
Harkless’ numbers on offense aren’t outstanding. Last season, he only averaged 6.4 points and 0.9 assists in 18.7 minutes of action per game, while shooting 27.9 percent from beyond the arc and 62.2 percent from the charity stripe. However, that’s something that could be aided through the John Wall Effect, and might be worth the gamble considering what he can do on the other end of the court.
Earlier this week, John Wall told J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic he wanted to see the the Wizards sign a “lockdown defender on the wing” and Harkless has the tools to become one of those players. Dan Marang of Blazers Edge had this to say about Harkless’ defense back in March:
Whether as a starter or a reserve, Harkless rates at or above nearly everyone on the Blazers' roster in every defensive metric (per Synergy sports). Of note, he's very good at closing out on spot-up shooters, allowing only 31.3 percent shooting. In the pick-and-roll, when Harkless is considered the "big" defender - typically at the stretch 4 or in a cross match - Harkless is allowing a ridiculously low .425 points per possession, good enough to rate in the 97th percentile overall.
Time after time, Harkless uses his size and length to disrupt the action. His solid build allows him to bully smaller players off their preferred line. His length and active hands bother players as they attack or look to pass. He's incredibly adaptable, able to pressure out on the perimeter and cover the quickest and most athletic players in the league. At the same time, he's able to generate turnovers in open play or even play post defense against the numerous bigs of the league.
Problem is, with so many suitors, it will be hard for the Wizards to avoid a bidding war for his services. And even if Washington were to win that bidding war, the Blazers would still have a chance to match any offer sheet Harkless signs, so it all might be for naught.
Still, with the all the cap space Washington has this season, it couldn’t hurt to take a shot at trying to poach away some young talent like Harkless from other teams, even if they have to pay a little bit of a premium to do it.