One of the strengths of the 2013-2014 Mavericks is projected to be the backcourt.  With the signings of Monta Ellis, Wayne Ellington, Jose Calderon, Gal Mekel and the acquisition of first round draft pick Shane Larkin, Dallas appears to be set at the guard positions.

Even with that strength, there was one more move to complete the package and that was the return of Devin Harris.  The 6’3 guard spent the first three and a half years of his career in Dallas and returns now to give the Mavericks one of the most potent backcourt groups the team has seen.

The question surrounding Harris, notwithstanding the dislocated toe that is expected to keep him out the first two months of the season, is where he will get his playing time – as a shooting guard or playing the point.  The answer of course lies with Coach Rick Carlisle, but it’s interesting to look at what the numbers say.

Answers to that question are mixed.  Last season with the Atlanta Hawks, Harris started roughly twice as many games at shooting guard as he did at point guard.  In one-on-one matchups versus opponents playing the same position, Harris sports a better stat line playing the two (or shooting guard position).  In fact his best performances often came against some of the highest level of competition including Joe Johnson, Steve Nash, O.J. Mayo and his new teammate Monta Ellis.

It’s expected that Jose Calderon will be Dallas’ starting point guard and will be counted on for about 30 minutes per game,  but one thing Coach Carlisle likes is veterans, and Harris should have no problem seeing playing time.  Carlisle in fact expects to see Harris at both guard spots and has referred to him as a “two-position player”.

With the Hawks last season, Harris’ scoring average was over three points per game higher at shooting guard than at the point.  Even his assists, rebounds and steals were higher at that position.  However, his field goal and free throw percentage were higher when he was running the offense.  His PER (player efficiency rating) was 16.2 when he was playing point yet fell to 13.6 when he was the two guard.

The NBA effective recap rating is a statistical formula awarding points based on the major stats categories.  Harris’ PER also goes up as his minutes increase.  Logging between one and twenty minutes puts his PER in the 4’s.  When he plays over twenty minutes in a game it rises to a 9.8.  In a game when he’s on the floor over 30 minutes it climbs to 14.2 and in those rare occurrences when he sees over 40 minutes of action that number skyrockets to 27.0.

One thing that is evident is that Harris needs more minutes to be effective.  Of his ten best overall performances last year he never played less than 24 minutes and often saw over 30 minutes per game.  Comparatively, of his ten worst performances, only once was he at 30+ minutes and once at 20+ with most games in the mid-teens.  Court time equals success for Harris.

First up, however, is getting Harris healthy.  Expected back in the December/January range, he’ll be returning at what may be an optimum time as his most productive months last year were April (12.3 ppg), March (11.5 ppg) and January (10.5 ppg).

Whether it’s running the point or manning the two-spot, Harris’ return will provide veteran leadership and only enhance what is already a stout guard corps the Mavs will roll out this season.

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