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How a rested Moe Harkless is ready to help Miami Heat start the season

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Harkless may be quiet but he lets his performances talk for him

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

During its short offseason signed Moe Harkless to shore up its defense according to John Schuhmann.

“Maurice Harkless (the Jae Crowder replacement) started both of the Heat’s games at the four and, though he shot just 1-for-8 from 3-point range, made a quick impression on defense with a pretty ridiculous block on Brandon Ingram. It’s on that end of the floor where there’s room for improvement. The Heat have ranked outside the top 10 defensively in just seven of the 25 seasons since Pat Riley left New York for Miami, but last season was one of the seven, as they saw a big jump in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (65.8%, 25th) from the season prior (58.7%, second).”

But don’t expect Harkless to be the flashy type who draws attention to himself. After all as a youngster he would find a way to hoop by throwing his sneakers out of the window.

“When he was little, when they would tell him he couldn’t go outside and play, Maurice would throw his sneakers through the front window,” Shakima recalled, hardly able to contain her laughter. “Then he’d go to ‘check the mail,’ but then he wouldn’t check the mail; he’d put his sneakers on and go play basketball.”

Like Bam Adebayo family comes first for Harkless, especially his mom Rosa Harkless, who was moved to tears on draft night.

“She’s excited about just being here,” the bashful Harkless said later of his mother’s tearful reaction. “The team didn’t matter; she was really emotional and she’s probably out there still crying. I’m definitely glad I could make her happy and make my dreams come true.”

Though quiet and reserved Harkless possesses the intelligence to learn what the Heat demand of him as taught by Erik Spoelstra.

“Honestly, I always saw Moe becoming a lawyer or a doctor,” Rosa said, beaming at the very mention of her son. “Moe is intelligent, he’s really, really smart and he always did really, really well in school. He didn’t even begin to really love the game of basketball until he was 13 or 14.”

Defense may be Harkless’ calling card, but he excels in what Derrick Jones Jr. brought to the team previously: rattling the rim with a dunk.

Moe Harkless Dunks

SZN FGM FGA PCT
SZN FGM FGA PCT
2012 68 77 88.3%
2013 60 62 96.8%
2014 29 31 93.5%
2015 62 71 87.3%
2016 68 72 94.4%
2017 30 40 75%
2018 66 72 91.7%
2019 49 58 84.5%
TOTAL 432 483 89.4%

With a career 89% field goal percentage on dunks, he scores in a variety of ways above the rim besides lobs as the video below illustrates.

Although Harkless had seasons where he shot 41%, 38%, 37%, 35% from beyond the 3-point line (32.5% in total), his 89% efficiency on dunks over an entire career is hard to ignore.

The Heat have developed a reputation as one of the best teams on finishing cuts to the rim. Harkless makes Miami even more dangerous in that area. Defenses have to decide whether to contest a 45% shooter from deep or a 89% threat at the rim. By picking one, the other is left open.

Meyers Leonard would know a thing or two about Harkless from time together on the Portland Trail Blazers. Their connection could help Harkless in adapting to Heat Culture, not to mention the Heat having a coach with strong boyhood ties to Portland.

The returning core of the Heat may be weary from winning NBA Eastern Conference Championship. The fresh faces and bodies in Harkless, Avery Bradley, KZ Okpala, Precious Achiuwa, Chris Silva, Max Strus could help Miami at the start the season by not wearing out the weary. Now the staff has to figure out how they fit with returning players to start the season on a strong note.