With the worst record in the NBA at 1-10 and plagued by injuries to Cedi Osman, George Hill, Sam Dekker, and Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers have signed guard Andrew Harrison to a two-way deal after waiving swingman John Holland. Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Harrison won’t spend any time with the Canton Charge, and will be on the NBA roster as long as he is with the franchise. Two-way players can spend 45 days on an NBA roster before their teams have to convert them to an NBA deal to keep them on the roster. Since teams aren’t yet able to sign players to 10-day contracts, a two-way deal allows the Cavaliers to take a look at Harrison for an extended period without locking themselves into paying him a full minimum salary for the rest of the season.
Starring at William B. Travis High School in Fort Bend County, Texas, Harrison was considered one of the best players of the class of 2013, behind Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle. Committing to the University of Kentucky alongside his brother, Aaron, Harrison spent two disappointing seasons with the Wildcats, averaging 10.1 points and 3.6 assists while shooting just 37.8% from the floor. Still, Harrison’s former status as an elite prospect, combined with his size as a 6’6″ combo guard was enough to get him selected with the 44th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, who promptly traded Harrison to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jon Leuer.
After spending his first professional season with the Iowa Energy (now the Iowa Wolves) of the NBA G-League, Harrison signed a multi-year deal with the Grizzlies in July of 2016. While he averaged 20.5 minutes in 72 games (18 starts) for a Grizzlies team that finished seventh in the Western Conference, Harrison struggled tremendously, shooting just 32.5% from the field and 27.6% from three while finishing the 2016-17 season with zero win shares. On the bright side, he did show potential as a defender, and had an assist-to-turnover ratio of over 2:1, a must for any NBA point guard.
To his credit, Harrison came back last season a much improved player. His field goal percentage jumped to 42%, and he shot 33% from deep. He also shot 78% from the line on 2.8 attempts per game, and his true shooting percentage jumped from 47.7% to 53.4%. Harrison was still below league average in terms of offensive efficiency, but he had improved enough to justify being on the floor. Combined with solid, but certainly not elite, defensive effort and adequate passing, and Harrison looked like a legitimate NBA player.
So why did the Grizzlies waive Harrison after just five games this season? Simply put, he was expendable. Mike Conley has returned to action, and the Grizzlies signed Shelvin Mack to be his backup. They also selected point guard Jevon Carter with the 32nd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, while the shooting guard minutes have been filled by Garrett Temple and Wayne Selden. The Grizzlies felt they had enough depth without Harrison, so they simply rid themselves of a non-guaranteed contract that they wouldn’t have to pay.
While we can’t say for sure what kind of impact, if any, Andrew Harrison will have for the Cavaliers, we do know that he will get an opportunity to make one. At 24 years old, Harrison isn’t exactly young anymore, and certainly isn’t the prospect he used to be. Still, he has shown the ability to at least be a third point guard on a good team, and with the further development the Cavaliers can give him, could become a solid backup. Whether he pans out or not, taking a look at a player like Harrison is a good use of one of the Cavaliers’ two-way contracts.