Ben Simmons’ Nets Arrival Will Be Wasted if Joe Harris’ Injury Issues Aren’t Resolved

The Brooklyn Nets are fresh off of one of their most impressive victories of the season, coming back from 28 points down to defeat the New York Knicks 111-106. While the Nets are encouraged by the production from role players Cam Thomas and Seth Curry, they still know their championship aspirations rest on the shoulders of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and new acquisition Ben Simmons.

Simmons, who came over from the Philadelphia 76ers in the blockbuster James Harden deal at the trade deadline, is inching closer toward making his season debut. Eventually, the three-time All-Star will join Durant and Irving in forming a new big three for Brooklyn, one that can lead it to an elusive title.

But as they proved Wednesday night, the Nets are more than just three superstars. It takes a collective effort to win in the NBA, something teams like the Los Angeles Lakers are learning the hard way. That’s why the Nets need key role player Joe Harris back sooner than later, especially if they intend to get the most out of Simmons’ abilities.

Joe Harris is in danger of missing the entire season

For all the talk about Brooklyn’s big three, Harris is a major part of the team’s overall resurgence.

The 30-year-old led the NBA in three-point percentage last season, shooting a whopping 47.5% on 6.4 attempts per game. The eight-year vet was rolling again this season to the tune of 46.6% from three before everything changed on Nov. 14.

In his 14th contest, Harris suffered an injury to his left ankle against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The veteran missed six games before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Nov. 29. The procedure was expected to keep Harris out for four to eight weeks, meaning the sharpshooter would return with plenty of time left in the season.

Fast-forward to the All-Star break, and Harris is still on the sidelines. Worse yet, he may be there a while longer.

Harris has suffered a number of setbacks during the recovery process, head coach Steve Nash told the New York Daily News last month. Soon after, the three-point specialist flew to Indianapolis for a second opinion. Since there has been no real progress since that meeting, Nash recently confirmed that a second procedure — one that would effectively end his season — hasn’t been ruled out.

“I think everything’s on the table at this point,” Nash told the Daily News ahead of Wednesday’s game. “We hope that he comes back, but we have no idea where this is going to go at this point. We’re just continuing his rehab and hopefully we get some good signs and positive signs soon, but I have no update other than that.”

The loss of Harris would be a devastating blow for the Nets, who committed a lot of money to the sharpshooting forward. The three-point specialist inked a four-year deal worth $75 million going into the 2020-21 season.

The Nets need Harris for Ben Simmons to show his full potential

When Brooklyn traded the former MVP Harden for the 25-year-old Simmons, it knew exactly what it was getting. The Australian is not a shooter by any means, taking just 34 three-pointers in the regular season and two in the playoffs. But what he lacks in shooting, he more than makes up for in slashing, rebounding, and defense.

There’s also another area of Simmons’ game that is a huge positive — his playmaking. Particularly, his ability to set his teammates up for three-pointers.

From 2017-18 through the end of last season, Simmons has 996 assists on three-pointers according to PBP Stats. For context, the future Hall of Famer and “Point God” himself Chris Paul has 927 in that same span. And only Paul has assisted on more threes per 100 possessions than the former 76ers star.

Simmons entered the league and immediately became the primary facilitator for shooters Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and JJ Redick. He would then dish out the rock to Tobias Harris and Danny Green. Now in Brooklyn, he has the chance to make Joe Harris better than ever. But only if the latter is actually available.

The Nets’ newest star will still be able to become the key distributor for Curry and the club’s other shooters. Though it’s fair to say his overall impact will be capped if Harris isn’t also there to reap the rewards.

Harris’ return would likely make Simmons and the Nets title favorites

Forget about the oddsmakers who have consistently placed Brooklyn at or near the top of the championship odds. Even after Wednesday’s victory, the 31-27 Nets are still the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference, placing them in the middle of the play-in round.

However, hope is on the way. Durant’s return from an MCL sprain will provide a major lift, as will Irving eventually becoming a full-time player again. Of course, Simmons will make a huge difference once he’s ready for action. Now potentially add Harris to the mix, and suddenly the Nets should be favored against anyone in the conference.

Of course, getting everyone on the court at the same time is easier said than done. The Durant-Irving-Harden trio started a measly 16 games together after the Beard was brought on in Jan. 2021. And there’s a chance they still don’t get everyone back if Harris does indeed go under the knife a second time.

Simmons and company should be able to make the Nets a contender on their own. But Harris may be the key to transforming them into the best team in the league.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

RELATED: A 3-Step Plan for the Brooklyn Nets to Fix Ben Simmons