Nikola Jokic has been the Denver Nuggets best player for quite some time now. Nikola’s post all-star break slump finally ended on Tuesday night in Denver’s 125-107 victory over the Chicago Bulls. Before Tuesday night, Jokic had been in a four game mini-funk for the Nuggets. With Jokic not playing at the level we have come to expect out of him as fans, a different Nugget has had to step up and produce.
Twenty-two year old Gary Harris has been Denver’s best all-around player for the Nuggets since the All-Star Break came to an end. It had been an up and down last four games for the team since the break. As a whole, Denver has been average coming off the break going 3-2 thus far with some good wins against Brooklyn, Chicago, and Milwaukee and ugly losses to Sacramento and Memphis. One constant throughout all of these games has been the consistently good play of Gary Harris.
He set his career-high in points Friday at home against Brooklyn with 25 points on an extremely efficient 9-15 from the field and 4-6 from deep.
Denver had thirty-two assists on the night with Harris being a big part of that cutting to the basket and hitting spot up shots. It was a big time performance that Malone’s Nuggets really needed after a bad sixteen point loss against Sacramento.
In the four games following the break, Gary has produced 20.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 33 minutes per game. Not only has he been scoring at an impressive rate. but he has also been extremely efficient. Garris is shooting 53% from the field and 43% from deep without missing a free throw since the all star break.
To dig a little deeper into his numbers, Harris has a 128 offensive rating since the break which would be tied for second in the NBA this season with Tristan Thompson and behind only Otto Porter. He also has put up a 65% true shooting percentage, which would be fourth in the NBA behind only Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, and Kevin Durant.
It is no surprise to Nuggets fans that Gary could really shoot the basketball, but his game is starting to take the next step. Harris has really begun to use pick and rolls to his own scoring advantage, as where in the past he would always make a pass out of a PnR. Denver becomes a much more dangerous team when Harris is looking to score and attack for himself.
Harris playing well is extremely important for Denver to succeed. One of Gary’s best traits is probably his basketball IQ and chemistry with his teammates. With Nikola it is especially evident. From time to time, Jokic will glance at Gary and he will then jet to the basket on a back cut for a quick two points. Harris and Mudiay might have the best chemistry on the team. Although we have not been able to see these two play together in quite some time, it is clear that Harris eases Emmanuel’s nerves and he plays much better with Gary.
I personally believe that Garris is Denver’s second most important player on the team right now. I do not expect him to keep up his average of 20 PPG since the break (although I do believe he is capable), but if he can average around 17 points for the remainder of the break and Jokic is back to his normal self, Denver should be in great position to hold the eighth seed.
Jokic has started to get recognition league-wide and now it is time for Gary Harris.