Who Is?: Moe Harkless


Moe Harkless is more than just an interesting name. Harkless is a scorer and extremely gifted player. He is a New York City product and was highly recruited coming into St. John’s and did not disappoint in his only year in New York City.

Harkless averaged 15.5 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game, doing a whole lot of damage around the rim. He is a big 6-foot-8, but also quick. He is the right mix of guard and forward to have a chance in the NBA. If versatility is the thing you are looking for, then Harkless might be the right guy for the job.

Harkless has already been in Orlando for a workout and is clearly on their radar. If there is one thing the Magic lack, it is a player like Harkless who can play multiple positions and score in multiple ways. There is no doubting though that Harkless is a guy that wants to get in the paint as his jumper is not ideal.

But this is not something you cannot work on. Harkless has talent and has the body to play at the next level, but he needed that one more piece to climb higher in the Draft. Another year would have helped. The talent is there though and he could be a nice pick at 19 if he is willing to work hard — and the Magic have a coach willing to give him a chance.

The Good: Harkless looks like a small forward. Yes, that is not everything. But the Magic need athletic guys who can create for themselves and do multiple things on the floor. Regardless of what kind of offense they run.

Harkless was a top-10 recruit in the country before he selected St. John’s and was solid, if not spectacular. He led the Red Storm in scoring with 15.5 points per game and followed that up with an 18.1 defensive rebound rate and an 8.4 offensive rebound rate. Those stats do not blow anyone away, but it shows some of his versatility.

He is an above-average defender at the college level thanks to his length and athleticism. That really helped him as the played a 3/4 hybrid in college. He used his quickness and strength to outmuscle post players and then his speed and athleticism to get out and close out on shooters. You see him block a lot of jumpers on the perimeter. Not an easy thing to do.

Again, Harkless was not a player that blew anyone away in college. He is athletic and could score but did not do that at the top of the Big East or the nation. Thus, why he is not in the lottery. In the right role, Harkless could thrive. But for a team lacking length on the perimeter, a scorer who can create for himself and some athleticism, Harkless is everything the Magic do not have right now.

The Bad: The shooting numbers are pretty concerning for a player who claims to be a scorer. Harkless shot a very respectable 45.2 percent from the floor (very good for a high scorer) but he shot only 21.5 percent from beyond the arc. To be sure, defenders at the next level are going to test his jumper and make him take those long-range shots.

His scoring numbers are also a little deceptive. Harkless played a lot of his time in the post or the mid-post. He was simply bigger than a lot of the players he faced on a night-in, night-out basis. That meant a lot more time in the post. And his post game is very good, but he is not going to have the same advantages that he had in college in the NBA. He is definitely not a power forward in the NBA and will have to rely more on his speed and athleticism for his size at the next level.

The only problem is, it is the NBA. There are a lot more players that are as fast and athletic as him.

Watching his highlights, it is definitely clear that Harkless’ defense is ahead of his offense. That is typically a good sign in young players. But you want a young player who averaged nearly 20 points per game in the Big East to be able to contribute a little more on the offensive end of the floor. It is still a little unclear whether Harkless’ offensive game will translate to the next level.

Draft Sites Say:

NBADraft.net: “Harkless passes the eye test at 6’8 with smooth athleticism and great length (wingspan is roughly 7’2) … His ability to attack the rim from the perimeter gives him a distinct advantage over his defender who is unlikely to share his agility … Quick first step and comfortable handle and footwork for his size … Skill level is still in between the 4 and 3 positions, scoring frequently around the basket due to his length and athleticism … Harkless struggles to create easy shots for himself in the half court, especially on the perimeter as a shooter … Pull up off the dribble is not really in his repertoire.”

Mike Schmitz, DraftExpress:

Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Small forward was arguably Orlando’s weakest position in 2011/12, as veterans Hedo Turkoglu and Quentin Richardson struggled to produce effectively and consistently. While Harkless doesn’t figure to be a rotation player right away, drafting him could keep Orlando’s proverbial cupboard stocked for when Turkoglu and Richardson move on. Harkless would instantly be the team’s best pure athlete and help the Magic score in transition. In addition, Harkless only turned 19 in May. His extreme youth is an asset, as he’ll have plenty of room to grow.”

Rumble in the Garden: “Still, Harkless’ age and ability to produce on a decimated St. John’s team speaks well for him. He doesn’t have whispers about him being an ‘enigma’ like players like the athletically talented Quincy Miller of Baylor or questions about an anxiety disorder like the talented Royce White. With Harkless, what you see is what you get — which works to his advantage.”

Final Word: Harkless is an intriguing pick. He has a lot of the tools a young player would need to be a successful player in the NBA, particularly on the defensive end. It is just difficult to see much refinement in his game after one year of college. He really could have used another year at the collegiate level to develop some of his perimeter skills and, most especially, his shot. 

His size and athleticism will make him a valuable asset. He just has to put it all together. Can he do that at the NBA level? It certainly feels like he is something of a project and not someone you want to stick into the lineup immediately.

Follow Moe Harkless on Twitter (@moe_harkless)!