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A phrase that gets thrown around a lot is “future of the franchise.” We often attribute this accolade to a guy who is a rising star or a guy who started proving himself right out of the gate as an unbelievable and capable talent. Kyrie Irving is the future of the Cavs, for instance. Anthony Davis is the future of the Hornets. We get that.
In recent months, Maurice Harkless’ name has been tossed around by a few writers as possibly being the future of the Magic and you know something? They’re right.
Orlando doesn’t have Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, or any young player close to that caliber. They didn’t cash in on on a blue chipper in the draft that could stand as an honest to goodness “future of the franchise.” At least not yet.
Instead, Orlando assembled a group of young, pretty good players who have to find their own way and carve their own niche in this league. The Magic coupled those youngsters with some veteran players who can show them the way.
We talk about guys like Andrew Nicholson as being a solid talent who has some room to grow and appears to be doing a lot of things right, if not a bit patiently. That right there is what the future of this team is and Harkless fits right into that camp.
Which is a really nice look for an Orlando team that just upped their record to 7-10 with back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors. OK, those wins don’t mean a ton in the long run, but what it points to is a Magic team that is clearly not tanking, is full of young (and slightly timid) talent, and that does have a future.
Looking at Moe’s numbers, he seems anything but futuristic. Quietly boasting 4.4 points and 4.3 rebounds a game to go with a modest 12.1 Player Efficiency Rating, Harkless is spending the majority of his 18.4 minutes per game on the court acclimating himself to the climate of the NBA.
After all, it was just weeks ago that the rookie admitted his admiration for Carmelo Anthony and his excitement to play against Kobe Bryant. That doesn’t make him soft, it just makes him regular. He’s not big pimpin’ Kyrie Irving, who hits a million three-pointers in the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Orlando his first year in the league. He’s a cerebral, intelligent, basketball player who is slowly working his way into the water instead of cannon-balling into the deep end.
Harkless has all the makings of being one of the best wing defenders in the NBA and he’s earned himself a starting role in the absence of Hedo Turkoglu. These are the types of things you have to look at as a Magic fan and say, “yeah, this guy really is the future of Orlando, or at least part of it, and that future doesn’t seem that bad!”
As guys like Harkless and Nicholson adapt to the league, and start getting more aggressive and more comfortable, they will become dangerous. And just when that starts to happen, look for Orlando to bring on a star (I’m talking a year or two from now). They are slowly developing the future. At least that’s what I’d be doing if I were in the front office.
Watch a few things about Harkless in the next few games. He’s fearless, but not overconfident. He’s smart, but doesn’t over-think. He’s creative, but doesn’t force the issue. Most importantly, he wants to impact this league, but knows he can’t right now.
Harkless can play in this league and his small steps so far have shown us that. Orlando is fortunate enough to have a guy wise enough at only 19 years old (or perhaps well-coached enough) to develop at the right pace.