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2019-20 Season Grades: Gary Harris

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The Nuggets starting shooting guard wasn’t able to break out of a shooting slump that raises questions about his long term fit with the team.

Denver Nuggets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Gary Harris 2019-20 season stats:

Per Game Table
Season Age G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% eFG% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2019-20 25 56 55 31.8 3.9 9.3 .420 1.3 3.8 .333 .487 1.3 1.6 .815 0.5 2.4 2.9 2.1 1.4 0.3 1.1 2.1 10.4
Career 368 306 29.0 4.5 10.0 .454 1.5 4.1 .360 .528 1.6 1.9 .803 0.6 2.0 2.6 2.1 1.3 0.2 1.2 1.8 12.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2020.

Season Breakdown:

This was another disappointing season for the Nuggets starting shooting guard, who continues to show signs of struggling after a core injury the previous season. His defense continues to be the reason why he remains in the starting lineup, and he is one of the most disruptive on-ball defenders in the league. Several players have had to deal with the frustration of having Harris check them throughout a game, making it difficult for them to get the ball, let alone get off an open jump shot.

Two seasons since averaging a career-best 17.5 points per game, Harris averaged only 10.4 points per game this season, the lowest mark of his career since his rookie season. While the defense is vitally important to the Nuggets overall team success, the scoring threat that he was two years ago is a distant memory. Teams are beginning to ignore Harris on the perimeter and in the dribble hand-off, knowing that he isn’t going to be able to shoot from the perimeter or beat his man off the dribble to get off a shot at the rim. He was about as much of a threat to score from the perimeter on a per minute basis as Torrey Craig, and no one is mistaking Craig for a guy that can light things up from downtown.

Harris’s best game of the season came in December, in the Nuggets matchup against the Lakers in California. He had a couple nifty finishes in the paint, Eurostepping his way to the rim to score, getting downhill on dribble hand-off plays with Mason Plumlee and Nikola Jokic. His defense helped sparked a run at the end of the third quarter that helped the Nuggets stake out a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in what wound up being a 24-point win.

It wasn’t long after that game that Harris suffered an adductor injury, which would cause him to miss some games in January. He missed another couple of games to attend to a personal matter at the end of January. He was starting to look like he had found a groove after the All-Star break, playing his best basketball of the season, so naturally the season had to end in one of the unlikeliest ways imaginable. We’ll see if the NBA is able to have a postseason and how Harris plays in those games.

Season Grade: C-

This was going to be a D grade if not for his final 10 games of the season. Harris was an offensive zero for most of the season, with a shooting slump that raised questions about his role long-term on the team. There are glimpses of the player that was one of the sneaky-best two-guards in the conference, but injuries continue to hound him.

If this was just a grade for his defense, he’d get an A. Harris and Millsap are the defensive studs in the starting lineup, and are the reason that Michael Malone’s system works. He is the Nuggets best perimeter defender, and a very important part of the team’s success. Hopefully his shot comes back, because the team needs him to be a scorer at times in the starting lineup. If he can space the floor, he’s going to be very valuable to the team for the next couple of years.

What’s next for Gary Harris?

Harris has two years remaining on his contract, and with the trade of Malik Beasley at the trade deadline, doesn’t have a younger prospect waiting in the wings to take his place. The team is committed to Harris at the off-guard spot, at least for the next season. While the Covid-19 virus may kill the season, it does give Harris a chance to fully recover from the injuries he’s sustained over the last two seasons. Maybe he can get an eye exam and dial in his perimeter shot while he’s at it.

Expect to hear Harris’s name in plenty of trade rumors. There are a few names out there — Zach LaVine, Jrue Holiday, Bradley Beal — that would be upgrades over Harris. If the Nuggets want to take the next step towards being title contenders, they need more from Harris’s spot in the starting lineup. If Tim Connelly decides that the longest-tenured Nugget is expendable, he’ll get moved (hopefully out of the division).

It’s as simple as that — either he fixes his shot and continues on with the team, or he gets moved. He’s getting paid too much to be a bench guy, and he has the seniority to be given a spot in the starting lineup with this coaching staff. I think it’s highly unlikely he gets benched in favor of Will Barton so that Michael Porter Jr. can start at small forward. If he’s on the team next season, Harris is a starter.

Denver Nuggets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images