The importance of Kevon Harris to the Orlando Magic

Kevon Harris of the Orlando Magic vies for positioning with Raul Neto of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Kevon Harris of the Orlando Magic vies for positioning with Raul Neto of the Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference to start the season. But it has not been all bad.

In fact, there are some real positives that can be taken from the early goings of this season. With the next six games at home, the chance to put some more wins on the board will present itself.

While much of the early talk has been about how fantastic Paolo Banchero has looked, and the Franz Wagner’s continued growth, some of the fringe players on the roster have been overlooked.

With the Magic being a small market team who are in the midst of their best rebuild since 2012, that is to be expected.

But if you’ve been paying close enough attention to the Magic’s games, you will know that Kevon Harris is a player who already has underrated importance.

The Orlando Magic have found a real gem in two-way player Kevon Harris. The young guard has made a major impact and helped change the energy of several games already.

That might seem like hyperbole. After all, Harris has averaged 4.1 points in only 13 minutes per game of action in the games he has featured in. And many of the numbers associated with him have not been great either.

But Thursday night’s win over the Golden State Warriors represented all that was good about Harris, and what the Magic need from him going forward.

In that game, Harris had his first positive plus/minus of the season, with a healthy +12. That number was second to only Chuma Okeke (+13) and better than every Magic starting player, who collectively ended the game in the minus (Banchero for example was -19).

Kevon Harris had 12 points, to go along with Chuma Okeke’s 16 and R.J. Hampton’s 15, to give the Magic’s bench group a real boost.

Scoring is not what Harris is out there for though. Defensively he was tenacious and fought for every loose ball and attempted to fight through every screen to close out his man. That energy (Harris played 20 minutes) was key to the revival of the Magic, who came from 16 points down to win by a single point. Jalen Suggs will deservedly get the plaudits, but Harris played his part.

It is that playing of his part that is so key to the Magic as they attempt to string some wins together.

Every playoff-caliber roster needs those players who know their role and execute it perfectly on most nights. To be a defensive tone-setter is not a glamorous job, but somebody has to do it. Right now that person is Harris, and it has not been lost on many fans.

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Former center Khem Birch is another player who excelled in this role for the organization. He was a better player than Harris and statistically had a more favorable impact. He became a fan favorite and cult hero in the Amway Center, and it was great to see him get paid by the Toronto Raptors.

Harris is some way from Birch’s level of impact. He does all the dirty work and makes plays that do not always show up in the box score. He is off to a promising start.

Now for the other side of the coin, and for all of the enthusiasm in Harris’ play, it is not yet leading to statistical success.

The eye test is one thing, and he passes on the defensive end on most possessions. But Harris needs to bring more than that. As already mentioned, the win over the Warriors was the first time Harris has had a positive plus/minus so far this year.

When he is on the court, the Magic have a defensive rating of 118.2. For the year, the team has a defensive rating of 112.9 (17th in the league), so the group is giving up far more points when Harris is on the court.

Offensively he is often the fifth option when on the court, so it is no surprise that his net rating is -8.8 so far because scoring is not what he is out there to do. Not to mention how much the Magic’s bench units have struggled to this point this season.

Yet despite this, Harris made a couple of 3-pointers against the Warriors, and his 15 points were a key component to the win. This is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses, with Harris hopefully shifting into a more competent “3-and-D” player.

To do so would see his value skyrocket with this group.

Harris is with the Magic on a two-way deal, so he will not be available for the entirety of the season. So it may be that his absence from the rotation will make the organization realize how important he is to their second unit.

Getting more reps in the G-League is no bad thing either, as it will allow his offensive side especially to flourish.

The Magic have more important issues to sort out, and head coach Jamahl Mosley is trying to strike the balance between defensive identity and raising the team’s offensive floor too.

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But when Harris is active on the roster, you know he is going to bring a lot of heart to the defensive end. That has not quite translated to wins and statistical success yet. But it will. And more fans will begin to realize the underrated importance he has with the group.