As NBA free agency quickly approaches, the Bucks turn their attention toward one of the most important free agent windows in franchise history. On June 1st teams can begin to reach verbal agreements with free agents; additionally, restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet from another team. While the Bucks are still $2 million over the cap line, they are still eligible for the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception which allows the Bucks to pay a player a maximum salary of $8.5 million per year (8.4% of the salary cap).
In a league that is trending toward efficiency, players that can convert a high percentage of 3 pointers are becoming more valuable. Enter unrestricted free agent Joe Harris. Harris was drafted with the 33rd pick of the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, where we was later signed to a two year deal. In his first two years in Cleveland minutes were hard to find on a Lebron James led Cavalier team with championship aspirations. He spent one and a half years in between the D League and the end of the Cavalier bench before he suffered an injury and was subsequently traded and then waived by the Orlando Magic.
On July 19th, 2016, Joe Harris signed with the Brooklyn Nets with hopes of finding a consistent role on an NBA team. Harris thrived in Kenny Atkinson’s selfless, ball movement heavy offense and made 1.6 threes per game on a solid 38% from 3 point range, while also carving out 21 minutes per game. While his 3 point shooting was solid as well as his decision making and overall feel for the game, Harris still struggled to finish at the rim and defend NBA level wings.
Harris came back in 2017 with an enhanced game as a result of improvements to become an average finisher and defender. Additionally, the 6’6 wing went from a good to a great 3 point shooter making just shy of two 3-pointers a game while converting at a 41% clip (led the NBA in 3pt % after the All Star break at 47%). His season was highlighted by a career night where he scored 30 points including going 6-7 from 3 point range against his former team in the Cavaliers.
Harris is projected to sign to a deal to a salary close to the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception of $8.5 million per year. This very much puts the Bucks in the running for obtaining the 26 year old sharpshooter. Tony Snell and Sterling Brown are the only reliable wings on the Bucks bench, so bolstering the bench with another proven wing player seems like a logical route for the Bucks to take. Additionally, the Bucks finished with the 4th lowest number of 3 pointers made last season and could use another shooter to help catch up to the rest of the league.
Last year, the Bucks primary wing players successfully avoided any extended absences from injury. Giannis, Khris and Tony Snell all saw over 75 games of action while also logging at least 25 minutes per game. While that kind of consistency is nice to have, it is necessary to have additional depth, especially at the wing. Joe Harris could provide some needed depth and also a body for Sterling Brown to compete with for playing time. And lastly, Joe Harris’s fit with the Bucks could project to be a very strong one, especially with Giannis to help create. Anyone that has watched the Bucks know opponents deter Giannis in the paint with heavy help defense. Having another sharpshooting wing on the team gives Milwaukee more lineup flexibility and additional spacing to give Giannis more room to operate. With little flexibility this summer, the Bucks must use their Mid-Level Exception wisely, and signing Joe Harris might just be what the Bucks need to headed in the right direction.