RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Moe Harkless

Posted by EJacoby on June 18th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Moe Harkless

School: St. John’s

Height/Weight: 6’8” / 210 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round

Moe Harkless is a smooth attacker of the basket (AP Photo)

Overview: Moe Harkless didn’t come into St. John’s as a one-and-done kind of prospect, but the smooth small forward dazzled scouts with his play against Big East competition for a depleted team in a tumultuous situation. Harkless averaged 36.1 minutes per game as an 18-year-old freshman, compiling 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks per contest on 45.2% shooting from the field. He’s not an explosive leaper but rather a smooth, lengthy forward with a high basketball IQ and above-average athleticism. To quote ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, he “has a small forward’s body but a power forward’s game,” as he struggles to create shots for himself on the perimeter but has terrific footwork in the post and is a great finisher at the rim. He lacks strength but just turned 19 years old and is sure to develop his wiry frame in coming years. He performed well in the Combine interviews, matching the smarts he shows on the floor by moving well without the ball in space and putting himself in ideal situations to score. His length and instincts helped him excel as a defender in the Red Storm zone defense, putting up terrific steal and block averages. He needs to get stronger and “meaner” in the post to defend NBA players one-on-one, but he has great size (6’8”) for a small forward. Harkless was a fun player to watch grow as a freshman last season, and he seems to have left a great impression on all new evaluators.

Will Translate to the NBA: Harkless has impressive natural ability, great size and athleticism, terrific length (7’0” wingspan), and a high basketball IQ. So if he continues to develop his skills, he’ll become a prototypical NBA small forward. He’s a solid rebounder and knows how to finish near the rim by using his body well, which are advanced tactics for his age. He has some very polished half-court moves such as a vicious mid-range spin, which allows him to score when his mediocre outside shot isn’t falling. He shows no ego whatsoever and appears very coachable and hard-working.

Needs Work: Harkless has two major areas of need: shot mechanics and building muscle. While he displayed range out to the three-point line last year, he shot just 21.5% on just under three attempts per game. He got to the free throw line often but converted just 67.6% from the stripe; both numbers need to show improvement. He also needs to put on 10-15 pounds of muscle if he wants to work in the post on both ends, which he likes to do. He only put up five reps of the bench press at the Combine, and he got bodied in the paint last season by stronger defenders. Luckily, these two areas of need are the most common improvements for young players like Harkless.

Comparison Players: Harkless displays prototypical characteristics for a small forward that lends comparisons to players like Rudy Gay, Trevor Ariza, and Caron Butler. But you’ll notice that all three of those players developed into strong NBA three-point shooters, as the ‘three’ position at the next level usually requires such. Harkless prefers to work in the post with his great footwork, like Butler when he was in college. He’s a fairly unique prospect but draws easy comps to a player like Ariza for his intangibles and smooth athleticism at this stage of his career. He really must improve the outside shot to become an ideal small forward in the NBA.

Best Case Scenario: Harkless does a lot of things well with ideal size, so he could become a very good player in due time. If he improves his shooting and strength as well as his assertiveness and toughness, then he could become an upper echelon small forward in the NBA. Harkless is still very young and has great upside, but he must improve against the grown professionals in the league rather than at St. John’s. His high basketball IQ lends one to believe that he should still be a successful reserve even if he never develops his perimeter game. But the upside is a high-level starting small forward.

Best NBA Fit: Harkless’ profile screams sleeper pick, but we may not be able to characterize him as such as he continues to move up draft boards. Whoever drafts him must be patient with his development and not expect a starting small forward from day one. It’s tough to identify specific teams that will best develop the young small forward, but the Dallas Mavericks at #17 have no long-term SF and can spare developmental time on Harkless. The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns earlier in the draft at #12 and #13 have solid depth but lack an impact forward with star potential.

Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “May take some time to develop and there is the concern that he’s a guy that becomes successful with his second NBA team. But Harkless has major upside and could even see his name called in the late lottery.

*This post was contributed by RTC’s Evan Jacoby. He can be found on Twitter @evanJacoby.

EJacoby (198 Posts)

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