John Henson, Maurice Harkless, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute - Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The rookie has returned to a starting role and has made strides in his development.
Harkless developing at both ends of the floor
Rookie forward Maurice Harkless has been a bright spot for Orlando during its stretch of 22 losses in 24 games, particularly in its five-game roadtrip. The St. John's product started every game on that trip and averaged 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 2.4 steals in a whopping 37.2 minutes per game. Prior to Wednesday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn addressed Harkless' development in a pregame meeting with the media.
"[T]he whole notion behind Moe's minutes throughout the course of the year was to get him in position to see success," Vaughn said. "And he's done that for us this last stretch of games where the game has slowed down for him. He's using his abilities, his natural instincts, but at the same time he understands what's going on on the floor.
"So, for me, that's great to see. When there's a question that he asks at shootaround, it's the right question, and that's the best part that I've seen from Moe."
What, in particular, has changed for Harkless since Vaughn began working with him in October?
"His ability to cut, and to cut with purpose," Vaughn said. "We saw it sporadically early in the year, [but] because of spacing [and] timing, he wasn't sure when to cut [or] if it was OK to cut. But now he's cutting with purpose, cutting for a reason. And I'm seeing him finish at an extremely high rate."
Harkless has made gains at the defensive side of the ball as well.
"Defensively, the hardest concept for guys to learn coming from college to pro is 'I'm not just guarding my man.'" And even more conceptually is St. John's played zone defense. So you take it to another level, now learning NBA concepts, and the whole adjustment of, 'when the ball is pulled from direction to the other, I can't just stay next to my man. There's other responsibilities that I have.'"