The Denver Nuggets made a splash move ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline acquiring Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic. In order to make a deal of that magnitude happen you have to give something up and for the Nuggets that was Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and a 2025 protected first round pick.
It’s a bittersweet deal because on one hand you are acquiring Gordon, who immediately elevates the Nuggets championship odds, but on the other you end up losing your longest tenured player. Harris entered the league back in 2014 when the Nuggets selected him in the first round at 19 overall and has been with the team each of the last seven years.
You might remember that Harris was apart of the same draft in which the Nuggets also drafted Jusuf Nurkic. Harris and Nurkic both came to Denver from Chicago as the Nuggets traded Doug McDermott to the Bulls. The deal worked out pretty well you could say as Harris was a pro’s pro during his time here in Denver.
Harris had to endure it all, he was here when the Nuggets had Brian Shaw leading the charge, which was a rough time to say the least. Then, Harris was one of the pillars for the beginning of the Michael Malone era that began in 2015. Harris was the “star” on most of those teams before Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray began their rise to stardom.
When the Nuggets drafted Emmanuel Mudiay back in 2015 and started the “Its a New Day” campaign, Harris played a massive role in that. Year after year things were changing for the Denver Nuggets, but one thing that remained the same was Gary Harris, you knew he was going to be there and that you could always count on him.
What ultimately derailed Harris and his time with the Nuggets was injuries. Harris played over 70 games in just one of his seven season with the Nuggets (76 in 2015-16) and was constantly held back by a number of lower body injuries. Harris appeared in just 19 games for the Nuggets this season after suffering a left adductor strain just over a month ago.
When he was healthy, Harris always found a way to contribute whether it was offensively or defensively. Even though his three-point shot kind of fell off last season, Harris has always been able to score from beyond the arc and get to the basket.
Harris has always had a knack for finishing at the rim, which was evident in the number of highlight reel dunks he had during his time with the Nuggets:
Gary Harris went playground on this dunk pic.twitter.com/FJYzyRjnBB— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 27, 2019
It would also be negligent to not mention Harris’ best play during his time with the Nuggets, which was this iconic buzzer beater against the Oklahoma City Thunder:
Insane finish to Thunder-Nuggets: Gary Harris. At. The. Horn. pic.twitter.com/rwGsCLI5NF— Sporting News (@sportingnews) February 2, 2018
The run off after drilling the buzzer beater was absolutely iconic and it will probably go down as an all-time moment in Nuggets history. It’s plays like that Harris was known for during his time in Denver, when they needed a play Harris was often there to deliver.
That was just his offense though as Harris truly made his mark defensively during his time with the Nuggets. Harris was arguably the Nuggets best defender during all seven years he was here and he saved Denver last season in the bubble.
Harris returned from injury for Game 6 of the Nuggets/Jazz first round series and completely changed the outcome of that series. As the Nuggets worked to overcome a 3-1 deficit, they desperately needed someone to slow down Utah’s scoring and that is exactly what Harris did.
Even though he came off the bench, Harris made his impact felt slowing down Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell. The Nuggets don't win that series without Harris, plain and simple. They also don't win the Clippers series without Harris either because of the impact he once again had defensively.
Michael Malone on Gary Harris:— Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717) October 1, 2020
“We don’t get to the Western Conference Finals without him. That’s just the truth.”
It’s moments like that Harris needs to be remembered for. Harris was a locker room guy and was a player everyone loved to be around. Harris is a Nugget through and through who did everything he could to help this city try and get their first championship. It’s a shame it didn't work out, but it was not for lack of effort.
So to end this article we say thank you to Gary Harris, who allowed all of us to believe in Nuggets basketball once again. It wasn't easy and there were always bumps in the road, but the one thing that stayed constant was #14, so thank you for that.