The Orlando Magic's disinclination to play third-year forward Maurice Harkless is beginning to draw national attention. In a The BS Report podcast published Wednesday, Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe discussed Harkless' situation.
"[Harkless is] somebody I'd take a flyer on if I was one of these teams," said Simmons, referring to borderline contenders in need of an upgrade on the wings. "Could that guy at least be a long-armed swingman who can guard some people? I don't know."
A bit later, Lowe added his thoughts, calling "bizarre" Harkless' lack of playing time.
"I know they have some issues with him as a player, but, I mean, they were playing Willie Green early in the season," said Lowe. "Now they're playing Ben Gordon [....] I absolutely agree that if I were another team and I saw them down on him I would be trying to get him on the cheap."
Harkless has played just 17 games for Orlando in the 2014/15 season, and has spent every day since January 2nd on the Magic's inactive list despite being healthy. Orlando Sentinel scribe Josh Robbins reports that deactivating Harkless is "a tough-love gesture designed to teach Harkless that more is expected from him." Robbins says Vaughn wants Harkless "to play with more energy and with a more intense focus on the defensive end of the court." Coming out of St. John's, defense served as the calling card for the lanky and athletic Harkless.
It'd be a stretch to suggest Harkless showed signs of NBA stardom in his first two seasons--he owned modest per-game averages of 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals on 46.2 percent shooting--but if nothing else he demonstrated competence, that he merited consideration as an everyday player. Lowe said as much as Simmons' The BS Report guest.
"Moe Harkless last year showed me some signs," said Lowe. "Like, he started making a decent number of his threes. He started working off the dribble a little bit, like just enough to make you think he might be able to do something as a player."
Harkless may not get many more chances in 2014/15 to prove his mettle: the free-agent addition of Channing Frye and the emergence of Kyle O'Quinn have shifted Tobias Harris from power forward to small forward almost full-time, eating into Harkless' opportunities. Once the rookie Aaron Gordon returns from injury, he'll log significant small-forward minutes as well. And Vaughn has shown confidence in Evan Fournier, running him as the nominal small forward in some alignments.
Given his own unspectacular play and the Magic's improved options on the wings, it's possible that Harkless' best chance at blossoming could lie outside Orlando.