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Player Grades: Shaq Harrison made his mark with defense

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Evaluating the 2020-21 season of one of the Denver Nuggets best defensive players, Shaq Harrison.

Toronto Raptors v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

After originally signing Greg Whittington to a two-way contract before the regular season started, the Denver Nuggets changed paths halfway through the season releasing him to sign a more defensive minded player in Shaq Harrison. Whittington battled a knee injury during his time with the Nuggets and signing Harrison gave the Nuggets tremendous upside defensively at a spot they struggled all season long.

Harrison went underrated in 2016 out of Tulsa and made stops with the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, and Utah Jazz before finding a home with the Nuggets. The Suns gave Harrison his first chance in the NBA as he played 23 games with Phoenix back in 2017-18 averaging 16.7 minutes per game. His first real chance to shine came the next season in Chicago as he played 73 games with the Bulls averaging 6.5 points, three rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game.

After two fairly successful years with the Bulls, Harrison went on to play 17 games with Utah before finally getting another opportunity for solid minutes with the Nuggets. Even though he did not play in every game, Harrison still found a way to have a positive impact during his time in a Nuggets uniform.

Shaq Harrison 2020-21 per game stats

Harrison appeared in 17 regular season games for the Nuggets averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. Not only did he contribute in the regular season, but Harrison also played in nine of the Nuggets 10 playoff games averaging 4.5 minutes per game. Even though he did not play a lot, Harrison constantly made a positive impact on the defensive end of the floor.

What Happened

Harrison played sparingly with the Nuggets over the last few months of the season, but contributed more than anyone would have imagined. When the Nuggets inked Harrison to a two-way contract in April it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as Denver was losing players to injury by the day. With the injuries to Jamal Murray, PJ Dozier, Will Barton, and Monte Morris, it gave Harrison a chance to play and he made his mark with defense.

Not only was Harrison’s defense impactful, but he also found a way to contribute offensively when his number was called. It would never be more than a couple shots a game, but the shots he did put up Harrison would often find a way to make.

Best Moment — Poster dunk in Game 2 of Trail Blazers series

This play really put an exclamation point on the Nuggets first win of the Portland series. It was a big time win for the Nuggets as it gave them some confidence for the remainder of the series and this Harrison dunk set the tone and closed out the Trail Blazers in Game 2.

Player Grade — B

A nice middle of the pack grade for Harrison, who made a solid impact during his time in a Nuggets uniform. When the Nuggets needed a stop in crunch time or at any point in the game they could always call on Harrison and he would often deliver.

Offseason Outlook

Harrison’s two-way deal was for the remainder of the season, so the Nuggets will have to make a decision whether to re-sign him or let him walk in free agency. The nice thing about this offseason is the NBA Summer League is back in August, which could be a nice spot for Harrison to play for the Nuggets and earn another roster spot for next season.