The FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings count down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
Gary Harris of the Denver Nuggets is evolving into a quality NBA player. One member of our panel ranked him as high as 45, though another didn’t have him on his list at all.
Last season, Harris averaged 14.9 points in 31.3 minutes and shot 42.0 percent from deep. After the break, he averaged 16.8 points, 3.3 assists and a 64 true shooting percentage. Clearly, he’s getting this whole NBA thing figured out. He could be a candidate for Most Improved Player next season.
It’s very hard to see where a rising player on a rising team falls in the rankings. Everything about Harris points up. On the thin chance that he plateaus or the depth in Denver limits his touches, he at worst will remain where he’s at. Apart from that, the only way he can fall is by injury.
There is considerable room for him to go up, due to his performance after the All-Star break. Specifically, he developed tremendous chemistry with Nikola Jokic, notching a 61.9 true shooting percentage when they were both on the court, and a 61.1 effective field goal percentage off Jokic’s passes. Since Jokic is the future of the Nuggets, it cements Harris’s place with the team.
Harris isn’t the guy who will dribble the ball and create shots for himself and others. He will come off screens, get himself open, and hit the shots when he’s fed. That’s a skill every NBA team needs to succeed. Harris shot a 67.5 effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoots last year, ranking fourth among players with 250 or more points.
His 1.209 points per possession on spot-ups ranked in the 92nd percentile according to Synergy Sports. Harris simply hits shots. A big reason is his decisiveness. He knows when he has a good look, and he pulls the trigger as soon as he gets the ball. You can tell from his body language and deliberation that he makes the decision to shoot before he ever gets the ball:
As a result, defenders rarely get a chance to challenge his shots; his 251 3-point attempts last year were classified as open or very open.
Harris’ defense is more problematic, as is the case for nearly every Nugget. His Defensive Real Plus-Minus was just 84th out of 93 shooting guards. The Nuggets’ defense was 6.3 points better with him on the bench, though, suggesting that even though it was bad, he was a part of the reason it was bad. This needs to be an area of significant improvement for Harris if he’s going to take the next step to stardom.
As I’ve said before, there are three elements to being a good defender: ability, effort and intelligence. Harris doesn’t anticipate plays well. He doesn’t see screens coming. He’s perpetually behind on the play, such as right here: He gets caught completely unaware of the screen, which sets up an open shot for Yogi Ferrell:
The good news is that he does have some of the physical tools. He moves his feet well and has quick hands. His effort is good. When he gets caught on screens he fights through them and is willing to chase a ballhandler who gets past him. He’s at a place in his career where things might start slowing down and the defensive end of the game will come to him.
More NBA Coverage
- Grading the Nuggets offseason
- Something To Prove | Nuggets edition
- 2017-18 NBA Power Rankings | Offseason edition