Most improved 2nd-year big men
Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris now flourishing in sophomore campaigns
Among the two dozen players who changed teams at the Feb. 21 trade deadline, no one has benefitted from his change of scenery more than Orlando's Tobias Harris.
Coming off a strong showing last summer, Harris looked like the Bucks' long-term answer at small forward. A "tweener" coming out of Tennessee, Harris was consigned to the 3 position on a Milwaukee roster clogged with more frontcourt players than any other team in the NBA. Unfortunately, Harris couldn't overcome his lack of a consistent outside stroke and averaged less than five points per game in a bit role before being traded.
Harris' season was reset at the deadline when he was shipped to the Magic in the six-player trade that sent J.J. Redick to Milwaukee. Since arriving in Orlando, Harris has played both forward positions and has flourished in his first extended shot at a full-time role. He's played 30 minutes per game for the Magic, averaging 15.6 points and 7.4 boards. His PER has jumped from 13.1 to a robust 19.5, and, best of all, he's hit 12-of-29 3-point shots.
Because of his use in Milwaukee, Harris doesn't qualify as a big man under the definition we've been using in the Barometer, which would require 570 frontcourt minutes this season. (Harris has barely played that many minutes altogether.) However, if he did qualify, he would rate as one of the league's most improved second-year bigs. No, he's not a "big man" in the traditional sense, but as a rangy, athletic combo forward who may be discovering his outside shot, Harris is the kind of versatile, positionless performer who every team needs in today's game. And as a still-raw player with loads of upside, he's just the kind of guy Orlando needs to be hording at this stage of its rebuilding project.
With Harris as our inspiration, here's a look at this season's most improved second-year big men among Barometer qualifiers (ranked by Winning Percentage improvement over rookie season).
It would have been hard for Morris to not improve upon his shaky rookie season, but he's played much better in 2012-13. Like Harris, he's flourished after a deadline trade. Morris went just 2-for-17 from 3-point range in his first season, but is shooting 39.4 percent from deep this season on a high volume of attempts. Since being acquired by the Suns, his PER has jumped from 12.2 with Houston to 18.9 with Phoenix.
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