Hardaway Versus Harris

Submitted by Brian on February 10th, 2011 at 11:08 AM



[note: this post and the BWS post were written before the Northwestern game.]

A hearty thanks to Burgeoning Wolverine Star for showing men of pessimism what pessimism really is in his post on Michigan basketball's immediate future. Whereas I'm content to downplay Michigan's chances at making the tourney this year, BWS wants you to know that Michigan isn't making the tourney next year, the year after, or ever again.

I kid. I think so, anyway. But the thing that struck me as true Keyser Soze-level pessimism was when BWS downplayed the possibility Hardaway will blow up by comparing him to Manny Harris:

Hardaway's measurables and stats are remarkably similar to Harris' throughout his career at Michigan:

Harris 07-08 16.1 4.2 2.7 38.10% 31.80%
Harris 08-09 16.9 6.8 4.4 41.50% 32.70%
Harris 09-10 18.1 6 4.1 42.10% 30.80%
Hardaway 10-11 12 3.8 1.5 37.50% 32.60%

Not that adding Manny Harris to this team wouldn't be beneficial, but Hardaway's production and body type--to say nothing of his predilection to take bad three pointers--are things Beilein has had to play with in the past. With any luck, Hardaway will avoid the general apathy and combativeness with the coaching staff that Harris showed toward the end of his career at Michigan, but regardless, seeing Hardaway turn into an unstoppable force is a little optimistic IMO.

The thing about Harris is that he didn't get much better, as the above chart suggests. None of those percentages have anything to do with frequency. Harris's usage rates as a sophomore and junior were almost identical, he took as many threes, as many twos, etc. The main difference between the two years was a considerable drop in assist rate that the team mirrored, dropping from third to 21st in percentage of shots assisted. Since the only losses from the team were two walk-on guards and the Grady buried behind them you can argue that Harris actually got worse between his sophomore and junior years. Also, Manny collapsed every Big Ten season as defenses collapsed on him.

BWS uses this as a cautionary tale about projecting Hardaway down the road, but I think that's backwards. Players improve as they age and they improve a lot when they are young. Manny not improving at the same time he was getting suspended, sitting on the bench for OT against Iowa, etc., says more about Harris specifically than Beilein's ability to deal with a Harris-type player.

Even if Beilein's inability to cajole Harris into learning how to use his off hand or not jack up strange three-pointers multiple times per game suggests Hardaway's fate, Harris still improved radically after his first season. There will be graphs. Meanwhile, Hardaway has a much better offensive efficiency mark than Harris as a freshman with nearly as much usage. He's almost reached Harris's sophomore and junior marks because of one glaring difference between the two players: turnover rate*. Harris was at 22% as a freshman and only got down to 16.5% as a junior; Hardaway is 14th nationally at 9.3%.

Now, there are lots of reasons for this that have nothing to do with the relative merits of the players. They can be summed up with the words "Darius Morris," who has a Harris-like 18.8 TO rate that no one's complaining about because he's fourth nationally in assist rate. Hardaway does not have to be the primary ballhandler. He doesn't provide the assists Harris did. He has a lower TO rate than anyone on the team, three-point specialists included, despite using more possessions than anyone except Morris. He should learn what shots are good and which are not as his career progresses, something Harris didn't want to or couldn't because he didn't have the butter—[strangling sounds] version of Darius Morris next to him or anyone who could shoot ever.

While I don't think Hardaway is as good as Harris was as a freshman or will be as good as Harris was as a sophomore, he doesn't have to be in the context of this Michigan team to be more efficient than Harris could ever dream of being. Chart? Chart. Chartzzzz.

[These are adapted from the excellent Big Ten Geeks study from a couple years back that showed the general path of improvement as players age. Kenpom has not updated individual numbers from last night yet so these are a tiny bit out of date. Hardaway went 5 of 11—3 of 8 from three—was 4 of 4 from the line, and had four assists to two turnovers, so these are slightly pessimistic.]



Harris maintained an epic usage level his entire career; Hardaway has started off at nearly the same rate.



Due to the high usage both are below average. Harris was less efficient, likely because very few of his buckets were assisted. Hardaway should not expect to improve as much but should at least equal Harris next year; average is within reach.



Harris was slightly above average for the duration of his career but these numbers include a lot of stone-handed post players and are not targeted towards guards; I don't have any data but eyeballing it those numbers seem thoroughly mediocre.

Hardaway's numbers are remarkably good for anyone, even players who believe the ball is radioactive. He's the only freshman on the list until you get to #38, and the first frosh playing outside the Dakotas you find is #44 Jared Sullinger. The guys above him are folks like Wisconsin's Tim Jarmusz (9.5 usage rate), Illinois's Bill Cole(11.5), and… uh… Jordan Taylor (best point guard in the country unless you're an idiot).

His numbers are so good that we can expect him to regress next year, especially if he starts driving more aggressively. They're also too good to be a fluke given his usage.



Since Hardaway doesn't have to be the primary ballhandler he is crushing Harris and the average for freshmen. Improving shot selection, reducing usage, increasing assist rate, and general improvement should send this higher next year—higher than Harris ever achieved.

What would have happened to Manny Harris if he had an awesome point guard next to him? What about awesome point guard + conscience? What about awesome point guard + conscience + actually liking his head coach? These are the questions we're about to find out as we watch Tim Hardaway, Jr., go from maddening but efficient-for-a-freshman to something between a good second banana and a ninja.

SIDE NOTE: These numbers brought home another point: Darius Morris is a better player than Harris ever was, full stop. Literally the only thing Harris has on Morris is a few points of 3PT% and a slight edge in free throw rate**. Morris is shooting far better than Harris ever did from within the arc, assisting on damn near everything he's not scoring, and maintaining an acceptable TO rate.

Freshman, Minutes, And Improvement

To further dispute BWS, he mentions later that people are pointing towards the extreme youth of the team as a reason they will improve considerably:

The biggest source of hope is that Michigan's team is once again one of the youngest in the country. Much like in 2009, Michigan's team is at a serious disadvantage in terms of college experience. This was one of the biggest points of optimism for the 2010 season that ultimately saw the team flame out spectacularly and lose close games in agonizing fashion.

Even before the season it was clear Michigan was overrated at the #15(!) team in the country after finishing the year 50th in Kenpom. People expected them to get better and got worse, something I'd again argue was a chemistry problem largely brought on by Harris. That problem won't be around next year and even if it did the overall percentage of freshman minutes then was far lower than it is this year. In 2009 freshmen played 31% of Michigan's minutes. This year it's 44%.

What's more, the second and third highest usage guys on the team are freshmen who play at least 60% of minutes. In 2009 Douglass and Novak had low usage and Laval Lucas-Perry was a mid-year transfer who only played 33.% of Michigan's minutes. The percentage of possessions used by freshman this year is vastly higher. Two years ago: 26%. Now: 45%. That plus being on the same page should yield a significant improvement in 2011-12.

Yes, Mr. Gaerig, you are too pessimistic about basketball, but you already came to that conclusion yourself.

*[The percentage of possessions used that end in a turnover.]

**[Harris has an individual edge in rebounding but this year's team is much better in that category than they were the last couple years so how much of that is actually meaningful is in question unless you're David Berri. Also Morris doesn't play the three, Hardaway does.]



February 10th, 2011 at 11:15 AM ^

Arguing that Hardaway won't improve "because Manny Harris" doesn't make sense. They have two radically different skill-sets, which would be immediately obvious upon first watching them, and is echoed in every single scouting report written about either player.

To argue that Hardaway won't improve "because Manny Harris" is to argue that Beilein can't develop talent, which, a cursory look at DeShawn Sims and Darius Morris would seem to disprove.


February 10th, 2011 at 11:39 AM ^

...with CB2 here.  Furthermore, how someone can take what's been an amazingly positive story of THJR coming in and exceeding expectations and turn it into "see, he's just like Manny Harris and the team is doom-ed" requires several leaps of logic that the most accomplished practitioner of parkour would find difficult to complete.


February 10th, 2011 at 12:22 PM ^

Because when Tim is hucking up bad shots and being slow-footed defensively he can resemble Manny's ambivalent junior season. Where this argument errs is its disregard for player attitude and surrounding personnel; Tim desperately wants to improve and has a PG who will help him do so. 

I've been hard on Tim all season for not utilizing his talents. His increased shot awareness and overall agression over the past 5 games has been tremendous but he's still far from maximizing potential. I don't want 8 of his 11 fg attempts coming from 3, even though they were pretty good looks. We have 3 guys on the court at any moment who are there to shoot 3s; we need Tim getting to the line and drawing double teams to free up open looks for said shooters. 


February 10th, 2011 at 1:24 PM ^

Yea he sure does. There were a handful of times yesterday I braced myself for a bad Hardaway shot, only to be pleasantly surprised by a good pass. 

Again, his 8 shots from 3 weren't bad looks, but when 2 of his 3 fga's were 100% dunks* you'd like to see him constantly attack the basket. 

*I quantify the likelihood of his dunk % because not every guy on the team (ahem, DMo) is completing 100% of their dunks. 

Steve in PA

February 10th, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

The author proves my often stated point that Manny was actually hurting the team in his final year.  "Manny Ball" was about Manny getting the ball and shooting that's why the assist rate went down.  I don't hold it against him because in other systems he would be the go-to-guy and that would be the offense.

JB does not run that and if you see a shot with more than 25 seconds on the clock that isn't in transition, the shooter wasn't running the offense.  

Hardaway is playing from day one under JB's coaching.  I am very excited about the future of this kid/team.  He has a long frame and with some time in the weight room and coaching he will be something special.


February 10th, 2011 at 12:22 PM ^


"JB does not run that and if you see a shot with more than 25 seconds on the clock that isn't in transition, the shooter wasn't running the offense."  

It seems JB is giving a green light to any open shot regardless the shot clock/number of meaningless perimeter passes proceeding it. That's the luxury of having a creator like DMo; open looks might/should come early and often.

Take for example yesterday w/ around 5ish minutes to go in the game and a 10ish point lead. I feared we were entering eat-shot-clock mode and would only see desperate, low % shots taken as the shot clock expired. Instead we maintained tempo and got good looks on 3 consecutive possessions, keeping our lead intact until the dreadful stretch from 3:30-1:45 left. 

Re: dreadful stretch, why oh why somebody please tell me why Stu (God bless him, of course) all of a sudden ran the point at the end of the game? I won't rehash why this proved disastrous, just curious why that decision was made. 

The Barwis Effect

February 10th, 2011 at 11:26 AM ^

As I mentioned in the game thread last night, the one area where Hardaway can't measure up is on the defensive end of the floor.  Hopefully that is something that will come with age, because offensively, I think Hardaway can be everything Harris was, and more.


February 10th, 2011 at 12:15 PM ^

statistical analysis--is the team's changing style on D. Since Alexander (brilliantly) urged Beilein to let the bigs box out and the guards rebound, Hardaway's been getting oodles of rebounds. HIs focus too has changed. If this team overachieves down the stretch--as they seem poised to--that will be one of the keys; it took a lot of pressure off of Morgan, with equally splendid results. 


February 10th, 2011 at 11:30 AM ^

stuff going on here. The nice thing about the future is you can make it; it remains beyond statistical scrutiny. We're constantly finding ourselves amazed as human beings perform beyond our pitiful expectations. 

That's the same Manny who the couch potatoes were ragging on who's now starting in the NBA--one year in. And the same Hardaway and Morris a lot of the same nattering nabobs of negativism were dissing all of. . . two games ago. 

This isn't going to be a traditional one or two-star team; everyone contributes. That will dull the sharp edges of comparative statistical reckoning about them, hopefully forever.  

MI Expat NY

February 10th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

To be fair to the Manny critics, he's only gotten 10 minutes combined in the last two games on what may be the worst team in NBA history.  I think he might eventually be a productive NBA player, the NBA style fits him much better than beilein's system, but I don't think he's quite disproven the critics yet.  



February 10th, 2011 at 12:19 PM ^

Manny's game much better than NCAA.  Less hand checking and more spacing on the floor.  Byron Scott wanted to play the vets in order to stop the losing streak.  Manny has been productive when he's given extended minutes.  IMO, Byron Scott should concentrate on developing players instead of trying to win now because wins will come eventually.


From what I've been hearing, Manny Harris is one piece of puzzle that the Cavs will keep going forward.  They liked what they seen from Manny and thinks that he has a bright future as a NBA player.

MI Expat NY

February 10th, 2011 at 1:38 PM ^

I hope he prospers in the NBA, I always thought he had the potential.  In some ways, being jerked around by Scott might be a good thing in the long run.  Maybe it will trigger a better work ethic in the off season.  I think some hard work on consistently being fundementally sound in his shooting mechanics could go a long way towards making him a solid NBA piece.  If he could make strides similar to those of Jason Richardson, at least in terms of shooting, I think he can have a lengthy, solid NBA career.


February 10th, 2011 at 5:18 PM ^

people forget that J-Rich used to be a high-flyer back in the days and he won NBA slam dunk contest in 2003.  Now, J-Rich got older and didn't want to abuse his body by going to the lane to get hit by big guys.  He developed jump shots and 3 point shots to the point where he can make it on a consistent basis.  That's an evolution of NBA player that enables them to extend their career.

I'm interested to see once LeBron gets older and loses some of his athleticism, his body breaking down. How he'll evolve as a player.  As of now, he's mostly all athleticism and power and not enough skills.  If LeBron can't develop a consistent jumper and do a lot skills moves, he may be in trouble.


February 10th, 2011 at 12:20 PM ^

I was going to say the same thing.  The guy has been playing sparingly on a team that has lost a record 26 games in a row.  He plays about 20 minutes a game, averages around 7 points with a 1:1 A/T ratio.  His outside shooting is better than I expected, but I agree the jury is still out if he'll be anything more than an average role pkayer in the NBA.  And for the record, most critics figured that was a ceiling in the NBA unless he dramatically improved his defense and/or shooting.  Not saying Hardaway will be much better (if at all), but Harris hasn't necessarily been a revelation in the NBA.


February 10th, 2011 at 12:25 PM ^

Smotz seems to be having trouble finding his place on this team.  Is he the player that just chucks 3s, or is he a 5?  I thought the latter was out of necessity until I saw him try to post up last night.  I think he'll be good and a major matchup problem once he gets more minutes, which will come once he figures out the defensive side of the ball.


February 10th, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^

Smotrycz is overmatched on defense more so because he is slow, less so because he is weak. Look at Horford. He is equally scarecrow-ish in build but way better defensively because his feet are quick enough to get in front of his man to deny entry. Smotrycz gets beat to the spot and ends up committing ticky-tack fouls as a result. 


February 10th, 2011 at 4:00 PM ^

But I think the only reason we see Evan playing the 5 is that we don't have a 5 who can shoot the outside shot, which Belien really wants. As Morgan and Horford develop, Evan will play the 4 exclusively. I honestly don't think he is outmuscled by many 4s, even now. I am more concerned about him working on his foot quickness so he can drive to the hoop a little more consistently and stay with quicker players.


February 10th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

So, I guess the basketball team doesnt suck after all.

I recall a forum thread 2 months speculating that this was JB's best team at Michigan. I wonder who started it?

Regardless. Good post Brian. Welcome back to the optimist club. We missed your charm and wit, my man. This team is 5 wins away between now and Selection Sunday from making the Big Dance again.

Let's have fun watching these guys chase that.


February 10th, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

And hopefully they aren't victims of this recent 5-game success. They are still unlikely to make the tourney (KenPom has a 9-9 conference record up to a 15% probability now) but the fact we can even discuss it in February speaks volumes of how well Beilein and this team are doing. I just worry that if we finish the season 2-4 (somewhat likely) people will be angry, losing sight of the fact that a 7-9 B1G campaign seemed impossible heading into the season, even before we knew how good the B1G was this year!


February 10th, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

You went to the early clap JM. 

Remember also in that thread I told you everyone was going to want Beielien fired when we tanked.    Go back and read the threads after we blew the Ind and NW games in spectacular fashion.  Don't underestimate the "talk radio" crowd to rise back up if/when we stub our toes coming down the stretch.   This has been a tremendous job of coaching by this entire staff to get this team to this point and I can only see a bright future for this team, but if we lose the next couple you'll here this.

We need a post player

Beilein can't recruit

It's year 4 get rid of him.

This system won't work in the Big Ten

We need to get tougher

You have to really hate Beilein or his style to think the future isn't bright for this team.

gpsimms not to…

February 10th, 2011 at 11:45 AM ^

Two time academic all big ten.  Won team MVP award as a sophomore, but insisted on sharing the award with one of his teammates.

A player who Beilein benched a few times.  Like he has done with DeShawn and Darius.


Sounds like a real cancer to me.


February 10th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

I agree that acting like Harris was a cancer is going too far. He seemed like a good kid who sometime ran afoul of Beilein - which, as you say, Morris has done as well. I think when we talk about him, however, it's fair to mention his shakey jump shot (which always looked awkward - something you can't say for Hardaway) and his somewhat lackadaisical defense.


February 10th, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

Is no one willing to add to the argument that Harris was hurt all last year and could have been a reason his progress was stunted?  Everyone likes a conspiracy theory, but he hurt his ankle early on and missed a ton of practice and his conditioning suffered.  I can't imagine it helped the teams chemistry or his jump shot either.   His lack of explosiveness compared to his soph season was easily seen. 


February 10th, 2011 at 12:12 PM ^

I agree Harris wasn't a cancer, but he was still butting heads with the coaching staff and getting into fights in practice as a junior and leader of the team.  Morris has also had a couple of growing pains, so I'm not saying all is right in the world either.  But the issue I always had with Harris was that he didn't fit into the Beilein system or, frankly, into what this team was trying to do.  Maybe that was a by-product of less talent around - okay, it definitely was a major cause - but even in 2009 this team looked lost both offensively and defensively for long stretches of games, and Harris's penchant for shooting ill-advised threes definitely hurt this team.  I am not sure if Hardaway will ever be as good as Harris was on a talent level, but he seems more receptive to change than Harris ever did, and that should translate into a better overall product on the court.  But the best Beilein teams succeeded because everyone played his part well, not because they had a dominant player.