Gary Harris is entering his fourth season with the Denver Nuggets and is looking to help end a four year playoff drought.
Gary Harris recently signed a four-year, $84 million contract extension with the Denver Nuggets and will be an important piece of the Nuggets core for many years to come. After being drafted 19th overall out of the University of Michigan State in 2014, Harris has improved as a player with each season.
After a tough rookie campaign under former Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw, Harris has thrived under coach Michael Malone. Under the previous regime, Harris only averaged 13.1 minutes per game. It resulted in an underwhelming 3.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per appearance in his rookie year.
The last two seasons have been much more successful for Harris. With Malone at the helm, the former Spartan has averaged over 30 minutes per game. He also saw his points per game reach a career high of 14.9 last season. Here’s a more in depth look at the Nuggets shooting guard:
Defense: Harris is one of, if not the best, defensive guard on the Nuggets roster. The Nuggets defense as a whole was horrendous last season. His defensive statistics are anchored down by his team’s ineptitude. But in truth, he was one of the lone bright spots in that department. Harris thrives on the defensive end of the court because of his high basketball IQ, active hands and hustle.
Harris had 30 more deflections than any other Nuggets player last season despite missing 25 games. Also led team in 50-50s recovered/game. https://t.co/bEN4edcQ8W
— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) October 8, 2017
With the Nuggets emphasizing defense this season, hopefully Harris will get some more help on that end of the floor. Taking another step forward defensively could potentially help Harris grow into one of the top shooting guards in the NBA. It’s something Denver is obviously banking on with the extension they handed him.
Cutting/Flashing to the basket: Cutting is one of the biggest things that separates Harris from his peers. The Fishers, Indiana native is one off the best cutters in the NBA. It makes him a perfect fit alongside Nikola Jokic. Harris and Jokic have formed some incredible chemistry the last few seasons.
High basketball IQ, knowing his defender and strong finishing ability are evident in the video above. Playing with a mesmerizing passer like Nikola Jokic is one of the biggest factors in Harris’ game improving so much over the years.
Harris is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. He and Jokic have such great chemistry together, and watching them play off one another is a treat:
Spot up Shooting: Harris’ scoring output has progressed with each season. The 23-year old progressed from averaging 3.4 points per game during his first season, to 12.3 in his sophomore season, to 14.9 last year. Seeing a spike in points per game is nice, but it’s only important if you’re doing it with effectiveness and efficiency. And that’s something Harris is doing after shooing a career best 50 percent from the field last season and shooting a solid 42 percent from behind the arc.
Harris is growing into one of the most efficient two guards in the NBA. His ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him such a tough guy to defend night in and night out. His spot up shooting is his best scoring trait and it’s where he gets most of his points.
Gary Harris is very good. pic.twitter.com/Nu4vTzgfOq
— Duncan Smith (@DuncanSmithNBA) October 8, 2017
As you can see, the effectiveness and efficiency of Harris as a spot up shooter is remarkable. A 42 percent three point shooter who can cut and finish at the rim like Harris can is a nightmare for opposing defenses. He’s a perfect fit in coach Malone’s system and fits perfectly with the roster the Nuggets have in place. If Harris’ scoring takes another step forward this season, we may be talking about a top five NBA shooting guard by the end of the year.
Injuries: Harris has dealt with a couple of injuries throughout his first three seasons and he missed 25 games for the Nuggets in their most recent campaign. There is no more important skill for a basketball play than their ability to stay on the court. Harris needs to demonstrate an ability to do so this year.
ISO Scoring: Harris’ game as a scorer has evolved over his first three seasons, but his isolation scoring leaves room for growth. As Duncan Smith pointed out, that’s the worst part of his game on the offensive end of the floor. Harris is actually at his best as a non-ball handler. That’s what makes him such an effective cutter and spot up shooter. But it can’t hurt to add effective shot creation to his arsenal.
If Harris wants to take the next step in his game, consistency is of the upmost importance. Harris is becoming one of the leaders and star players on the Nuggets roster and that comes with added pressure and responsibility. In his first three seasons, Harris has had an issue with sustaining performance and putting up good numbers consistently. Here’s a two-game stat-line that Harris posted at the end of last season.
Harris killed it in the Pelicans game, shooting an efficient 50 percent from the field. He finished with 20 points, six boards and nine assists. Then, in the Thunder game, Harris posted an abysmal 12.5 percent field goal percentage. He managed just two points in almost 36 minutes of action. Swings like that are what Harris has to cut down now that Denver’s leading scorer has left in free agency.
Gary Harris has improved in each of his first three seasons. With a big leap this year, he can evolve into one of the top two-way shooting guards in the league. He’s got great chemistry with the team’s best player and it’s vital to Denver’s success. The team seems to understand that too. After a massive extension following a wave of trade rumors, it appears that Harris will be a Nugget for a long time. Harris is worth every penny.