Basic Information

Height: 6’9

Weight: 220 pounds

Position: Small forward/Power forward

Age: 27

Years in NBA: 8

Key Stats: 5.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.0 steals in 22.8 minutes per game across 50 games played with the Clippers on 51.6/37/57.1 shooting splits.

Future Contract Status: In the last year of a 4/40 million contract, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.


Moe Harkless arrived in LA in the summer of 2019 as part of the Jimmy Butler-Hassan Whiteside-Josh Richardson trade, as the Clips used their cap space to take on Harkless’ contract for the Blazers. This move was regarded as a huge steal, as Harkless, despite his flaws, had been a key rotation player for very good Blazers teams over the previous four years. Harkless’ defensive aptitude and versatility on that end seemed like a perfect fit with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, either as a complementary piece or as a reserve. Therefore, he was expected to be a prime rotation player for the Clips in their pursuit of a championship if not a starter, contributing primarily on the defensive end but also as a spot-up shooter and cutter on the other end.


Moe Harkless largely lived up to those expectations. He started a majority of games for the Clippers this season, forming a highly effective opening unit alongside Pat Beverley, George, Kawhi, and Ivica Zubac. His defense both on and off the ball was largely excellent, and there were times early in the season when he seemed to be the team’s best and most impactful defender. On offense, he proved to be an excellent cutter, always at the right place at the right time to throw down a slam when the defense forgot about him. The Clippers played well with him in the game, especially when he was alongside shot creators, and he appeared to be a strong fit in the locker room as well.

What was the issue? Well, there were a couple things. First and foremost, Moe just didn’t take threes. On a percentage basis, he actually shot well (37%), but he took so few outside shots (1.5) that his percentages were meaningless. Team didn’t fear him taking threes, so they would play off him and send more help at Leonard, George, and Lou Williams. This led to cramped offenses on occasion, where the Clippers couldn’t get the offense into rhythm and were unable to find good shots.

The other issue was that Moe was somewhat undersized for a power forward. At 6’9 he had the sheer height to bother a lot of opposing players, but he was outclassed in the post and on the boards on a number of occasions. There were times when the Clippers just needed a bigger body (though to be fair, JaMychal Green was right there), and could not seem to find the right mix of size, athleticism, and shooting.

Rightly or wrongly, the Clippers (and many fans) didn’t know how playable Harkless would be in the postseason. With George and Kawhi playing huge minutes, his wing defense wouldn’t be as valuable, taking away his raison d’etre. On offense, the worry was that he’d get played off the court, as opposing teams would leave him open, and he’d be unable to punish them, leading to clanged shots or turnovers.

These factors led to the Clippers looking for an upgrade at starting power forward, and settling on the shot-hungry Marcus Morris. While nowhere close to the defensive caliber of Harkless, Morris is a more capable and far more willing shooter, and also provides a bit more heft inside. Therefore, the Clippers sent off Harkless and other flotsam to the Knicks and Wizards for the Morrii brother in early February, and Moe’s Clippers tenure was ended.

Future with Clippers

It is theoretically possible that Moe returns to the Clippers. He is probably going to be in the NBA for a number of years, and anything can happen. However, the Clippers just traded him away due to the seemingly poor (though I would disagree) fit with George and Kawhi, and those two will hopefully be on the Clippers for the rest of their careers. It is not impossible to see Moe coming back to LA, but it does seem unlikely at present.

My hopefully last ever thoughts on the Harkless-Morris trade: I remain firmly on the side that keeping Harkless was the smart play, or at least that trading for Morris was not. Yes, Morris is the superior shooter. And yes, he’s the better shot creator in isolation. But the Clippers didn’t really need either of those things. Reggie Jackson made far more of an impact on the Clippers in his time with the team because his ability to playmake for others and take some of the shot creation burden off of Lou Williams was far more necessary to the Clippers’ success than Morris being able to shoot midrange jumpers. In the playoffs, the Clippers hopefully would have gone small a fair amount anyway with PG and Kawhi at the 3/4 (clearing more time for Pat, Lou, and Shamet), and Zu and Trez will mop up most of the minutes at the 5.

In other words, I don’t think the need was there for a Morris trade. All that aside, in a vacuum, I’d rather have Harkless. He shouldn’t have started in the playoffs for the issues listed above, but his defense would have made a larger impact in 15 minutes than Morris’ streaky shooting and frequently frustrating decision-making. Maybe he would have been less likely to carry the Clips to victory, but he also would be less likely to doom them to a defeat, and that’s not nothing. Also, JaMychal Green is the better power forward fit (and small-ball center fit) alongside Kawhi and PG anyways. Oh well.