You heard it here first, Gary Harris is the next elite shooting guard. The 6-4 deadeye shooter of the Denver Nuggets is among the many talented 25 and younger stars in the NBA. While he may not be featured on any top 10 highlight reel or put up a bunch of triple doubles, Gary Harris’ value goes beyond the flashy plays and superstar box score numbers.
You might not think much of Harris when looking at his stats. His 15.3 points per game aren’t eye popping. His rebounds and assists aren’t overwhelmingly impressive, and playing alongside the passing god from Serbia that is Nikola Jokic makes it easy to be overshadowed. To understand the true impact of his game you’d have to dig deeper to fully grasp the value Gary Harris brings to the floor.
Again, the 15.3-2.7-2.8 averages don’t tell the full story. Gary Harris is one of the premier shooters in the NBA and one of the better defensive players at his position. Not only does he excel at shooting the ball at a high percentage, but he’s also phenomenal moving without the ball and using various screen to put him and his team in the best position to score the ball.
In the 2016-17 season Harris was one of the best kept secrets. Not only did Harris shoot a stellar 42% from downtown, which was 8th best in the NBA and 6th highest among shooting guards, he also shot an efficient 50% from the floor which ranked 1st among all shooting guards and he did this while playing some solid defense. He also managed to finish top 20 in true shooting percentage and top 10 in effective field goal percentage. The only other shooting guard with a higher true shooting percentage was Kyle Korver.
Moving right along, not only is Gary Harris one of the purest shooters in the entire NBA, but he’s also one of the best cutters and players moving without the ball, an undervalued part of the game that creates a ton of opportunities for teams and completely breaks down a defense. His off ball movement and sharp cutting opened up a lot of easy looks for the Denver Nuggets… And it probably helps if Nikola Jokic is the one delivering those passes.
Check out the clip below for a better understanding of how Harris excels at getting high percentage looks while moving without the ball.
While some fans might still be unfamiliar with Gary Harris, his game is very similar to Klay Thompson, and this comparison isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. When comparing both players at age 22, the numbers were fairly similar. Harris put up numbers of 14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Klay at that same age averaged 16.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1 steal per game.
Staying in the same seasons, Thompson at age 22 shot 47.6% from the floor when left wide open. Harris at the same age shot 46% under the same circumstances. Thompson shot 39.3% when guarded, while Harris shot 42.2%. Harris at 22 also put up higher PER, Win Shares, Offensive Win Shares, True Shooting Percentage and Plus Minus, all while playing less minutes and lower usage percentage than Thompson.
In no way am I implying Harris will be a better player than Klay Thompson, but it is something to take into consideration when thinking about what the future hold for Harris. If he can continue to match this productivity, theres no doubt in my mind that he can become one of the best two-way players in the league.
As for this season, Harris is at it again. His consistent shooting and pesky activity on the defensive end of the floor is paying off as he ranks
Top 25 in effective field goal percentage(.573).
Top 20 in catch and shoot points(6.5), 43% from the floor and 42% from three.
Top 20 in true shooting percentage(.624).
Top 5 in steals per game(2.0).
Among shooting guards it gets even better for the 3rd year sharpshooter as he ranks 3rd in real plus-minus among shooting guards(3.35), trailing only Jimmy Butler and Victor Oladipo. 4th in offensive real plus-minus(2.73) and 1st in steals per game. Not to mention Harris is currently top 10 in field goal percentage and top 15 in 3-point percentage among all two guards.
Defensively, Harris has been great in that department. His quick hands and active movement on defense cause havoc for opposing ball handlers. Not only is Harris 4th in the NBA steals(1st among shooting guards) but he’s also top 10 in defensive real plus-minus among shooting guards(0.62). He already has 9 games with 3 or more steals and a league high 6 steals in one game. And just to sweeten things up a bit, opponents are shooting 33% from the floor when defended by Harris, a team best. 7th in the NBA in deflections per game(3.2) and 9th in total deflections for the season(70).
In his last 10 games since returning from a shoulder injury, Harris is averaging 18.7 points per game along with 2.3 steals and just around 3 assists and 3 rebounds. Not to mention he put up 20+ points in 6 of the 10 games. While his shooting has slipped a bit during this stretch, shooting 47% from the floor and 39% from beyond the arc, you can assure it won’t be long until he returns to his elite shooting ways.
Expect him to continue his consistent play as Denver will likely look for more production out of him while Millsap and Jokic are sidelined with injuries. It won’t be long before Gary Harris becomes one of the marquee shooting guards in the NBA.
- All stats courtesy of ESPN.com, Basketball-reference.com, NBA.com