“Devin being out hurt us,” Nowitzki said after Harris had to exit in the second quarter of the Mavericks’ loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. “It’s as simple as that. If he’s going to miss some more games, it’s going to be tough for us to get in (to the playoffs).
“We need his production off the bench. We need his quickness, his ability to drive and get in the lane. We missed some of that off the bench tonight for sure.”
Fortunately for the Mavs, Harris was back Wednesday night, looking no worse for the wear in the win over the Utah Jazz, contributing 12 points, three assists and three rebounds in 20 minutes.
“Harris did what he’s been doing,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He did a little bit of everything: playmaking, scoring.”
Harris, a tremendous bargain for the veteran’s minimum despite missing the first half of the season while recovering from toe surgery, was back to being one of the best bang-for-buck backup point guards in the league.
Factoring in finances, production and impact for a probable playoff team, Chicago’s D.J. Augustin is the only backup point guard who could make a strong case for being a better value than Harris, who is averaging 8.0 points and 4.0 assists in 18.6 minutes per game while serving as the Mavs’ best backcourt defender. Augustin, who signed in December for the veteran’s minimum, has helped the Bulls survive without superstar Derrick Rose by averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 assists for Chicago.
To put their value into perspective, here’s a list of players on veteran’s minimum contracts who are averaging at least 18 minutes with PERs of 16.0 or better for playoff contenders: Augustin, Harris and Memphis’ James Johnson. That’s it.
Of course, the only reason Harris’ salary is so low is because the Mavs discovered that he needed toe surgery after he agreed to a three-year deal in the $9 million range. The parties mutually agreed to pull that deal off the table, and Harris decided to come to Dallas for the minimum, with the Mavs fully aware that he’d miss at least the first two months of the season.
At this point, Harris is the best value on the team, a critical part of one of the league’s better benches. Just ask the superstar with the second-largest salary in the league.