To-Do List for Orlando Magic's Mo Harkless to Return Even Better Next Season

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IMay 31, 2013

To-Do List for Orlando Magic's Mo Harkless to Return Even Better Next Season

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    Last year's draft, like so many in recent seasons, was viewed as a weak selection of talent.

    We were told that there were only a handful of good players and that the rest would be fringe rotation guys.

    But as we are finding out more and more, there will always be surprise players.

    Last year was no different. Players like Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond drastically exceeded expectations.

    So did the Orlando Magic's Maurice Harkless.

    Harkless burst onto the scene with an excellent combination of athleticism and size, and he has folks in Orlando thinking they have the next Nic Batum.

    Here are five ways for Harkless to become even better next year.

Three-Point Shooting

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    Harkless displayed solid form on his three-point shot but not always solid results.

    He took 1.5 per game but only converted 27 percent.

    The key for Harkless is shot selection and repetition. He needs to lock himself in the gym this summer and shoot hundreds of three-pointers per day.

    If he can develop the ability to catch and shoot in the corner, he will truly become an offensive weapon and one of the up-and-coming wings in the league.

    The chances are very good that he will be able to master this. Shooting can be improved over time. Look at players like Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng. They entered the league as erratic shooters from deep, but they eventually became very good marksmen.

    However, the league is littered with cautionary tales, like Darius Miles, who never put this aspect of the game together.

Passing

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    Last season, Harkless was credited with just over half an assist per game.

    For a guy who played about 26 minutes per game, that was pretty sad.

    Obviously, not every wing is going to be a playmaker like LeBron James. But it is important for small forwards to at least somewhat set up their teammates.

    Passing isn't necessarily something players are born with, but it does take time to develop.

    Harkless should be able to become at least a serviceable passer. The key is anticipation. Young players sometimes struggle to understand how quick and long NBA players are. Everyone has long arms, and most players play the passing lanes extremely well.

    Harkless needs to learn how to avoid telegraphing his passes, as this too will cut down on fast-break opportunities for the other team.

    Harkless should get his assist average to up around four or five per game in order to be a creditable small forward.

Moving Without the Ball

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    It seems as though one of the most difficult aspects of the game for perimeter players to master is moving without the ball.

    You can look at tape of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen and come to the conclusion that it really isn't all that hard. I mean, isn't it just instinctive for a human being to move?

    The problem with moving without the ball is that you have to do it in conjunction with your teammates, which means you need to anticipate what your teammates are going to do and then either react or initiate the action.

    For perimeter players, this also needs to be done in coordination with their big men. Players need to use their bigs as screeners and roadblocks who can aid them in their movement.

    It also comes down to effort. Rip Hamilton was in constant motion during his days in Detroit and, as a result, built a niche for himself in the league. He turned into a player who was dangerous at all times.

    Harkless has the size and quickness to score anywhere on the court and become a very good player in this regard.

Free-Throw Shooting

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    Harkless was atrocious at the free-throw line this year. Just atrocious.

    Harkless shot just over 57 percent from the stripe.

    This would be bad if he were a 7' center. But as a perimeter player who sees a lot of his production coming from driving to the hoop, this is particularly disturbing.

    The good news is that this likely will improve.

    Free-throw shooting can be traumatic for some young players. Many are just looking to fit in as a first-year player, and standing on the free-throw line is the antithesis of fitting in. You are in the spotlight, and there is nowhere to hide.

    Harkless displays solid form on his free throw. He lines up properly and has a solid rotation on his ball.

    But right now it's all about consistency. He needs to find the same routine each time and stick to it.

    This will certainly improve with practice, and he could be in the 70 percent range when all is said and done.

Become a Defensive Stopper

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    Harkless is long and athletic with a very good frame.

    As a rookie, his biggest impact was felt on the defensive side of the ball. He was very adept at getting blocks and stealing the ball.

    However, this wasn't attributed to instincts or skill but rather to his athletic tools.

    This is the area of his game where he can make a name for himself.

    There are two players in particular after whom Harkless should model his defensive game: Tayshaun Prince and Corey Brewer.

    The keys to defense are effort and anticipation. You need to study your opponents before the game and bring as much effort and determination to the matchup.

    Brewer in particular is a good role model for Harkless. They have similar builds and athletic tools. But Brewer has steadily improved his defensive game and now is borderline elite as a defender on the wing.

    Harkless needs to spend the summer breaking down scouting reports of opponents and learning their tendencies. Where does Luol Deng like to shoot from? Does LeBron prefer to drive from the left? When Kevin Durant catches in the high post, is he more likely to drive or shoot?

    Harkless could certainly become an elite defender with the right preparation.