I have seen a few disparaging, or at least concerned, comments on this OPP site regarding Maurice Harkless and his progression this season. I will admit, I have been down on Maurice at times this season as well. His jumpshot still seems to be very inconsistent, and for someone so multi-talented, it seems like he disappears for long stretches at a time.
I read a report that second year forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will miss a month or so with a broken hand. I was looking at his numbers in his sophomore campaign, and not surprisingly, they are very similar to Harkless's numbers. In fact, you can make an argument that these players are very similar in their overall games. Neither are regarded as having a complete offensive game at this point in their careers to say the least. Both players have a reputation of being "long" and potentially top-defenders that can create havoc. I can make an argument that Harkless may in fact have more long-term potential with his jump shot (form, release, etc.). Here is a look at both players' numbers in 13-14:
Harkless 25 MPG 8 PPG 4 REB 1BLK 1STL 1AST 45%FG 11.3PER
Kidd-Gilchrist 27 MPG 9 PPG 5 REB 1BLK 1STL 1AST 50% FG 11.9PER
The point of this post is just to give Magic fans some perspective about Harkless by comparing his development to a very similar player who is also 20 years old, plays the same position, and was part of the same draft class. The BIG difference between the two players is their respective contracts. Charlotte owes MKG 15 million more throughout the life of his contract, compared to just 5.5 million more for the rest of Harkless's contract. In a regarded "weak" draft class, we are essentially getting the same production out of a mid-first round pick that Charlotte is getting out of a #2 pick. I realize we didn't originally draft Maurice, but when you consider the production Vucevic is giving us, and then add Maurice's production (and the additions of draft picks we haven't even selected yet - D. Howard trade), it's not a stretch to assume that Orlando is more comfortable with their 2012 rookie than Charlotte is. It will be interesting to track the improvement in both of these players' careers.
20 years old is still very young in the NBA, and I have confidence Maurice will continue to improve. In fact, I think moving Harkless to the bench was a great move by Coach Vaughn. Maurice started quite a few games last year, but that was more by default than anything else (Turkoglu was hurt, useless, etc.). Coming off the bench, Maurice doesn't have to go against some of the stars of the NBA. He also is forced to look for his own shot a little bit more playing with the second unit, instead of giving up his shots to Afflalo, Nelson, Davis, Vucevic, etc. Bringing energy and defensive prowess off the bench, and occasionally providing an offensive spark as well, I see good things for Maurice and his future as a back-up SF. I would like to see Maurice continue to finish at the rim, get to the FT line (and improve his 50% FT percentage), and continue to improve on the defensive end. No worries Magic fans, at this stage in his very young career, Maurice is exactly where he needs to be.