2014 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Gary Harris competes on both ends

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Harris is a talented player who gets it done on both ends of the floor. Does he fit into Phoenix's plans?

GARY HARRIS

School: Michigan State

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 19 (sophomore)

Draft Range: Draft Express - 14NBA Draft Insider - 13

Stats

Measurables

  • Height: 6'2.5" without shoes, 6'4.5" in shoes
  • Weight: 205 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6'6.25"
  • Standing Reach: 8'

Combine Numbers

Harris did not participate in the athletic testing at the combine.

Shooting

Shooting is the strength of Harris' game. He's primarily a jump-shooter, and a very good one. He can hit shots from all over the floor: spotting up on the perimeter, running off screens and pulling up op stepping back off the dribble.

He's a good free-throw shooter, although as a jump-shooter he doesn't get there a ton at four attempts per game.

Harris already had NBA 3-point range, and he isn't shy about letting them fly. He shot over 40 percent as a freshman, but his percentage fell to 35 as his attempts per game increased by two. If Harris goes to a team where he gets good looks from the perimeter, the percentage should shoot back up.

Scoring Ability

Harris is primarily a jump-shooter, but he's a very intelligent one who knows how to get off good looks. He is terrific at using screens and reading defenders, curling or flaring depending on how the defender plays in order to get himself open. He's also capable as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll, making on-target pocket passes if the defense jumps at him or stepping into jumpers if the roll man is covered. If defenders close out hard Harris is able to put the ball in the deck and finish strong.

Harris is a capable ball-handler and passer, able to bring the ball up the court, run the offense and get his teammates the ball. I don't think he is a full-time point guard, but he's comfortable with the ball in or out of his hands.

However, he's not an overly explosive athlete, which makes it difficult for him to get all the way to the basket, or to finish once he gets there. He shot just 45.5 percent at the rim and made just 25 shots at the rim in the halfcourt. He can dribble but his handles aren't overly advanced and he doesn't have a lot of shake to him. At this point, he just isn't very dynamic.

Defense

Though Harris lacks elite length or athleticism, he has everything else you'd like to see in a top notch perimeter defender. He gives great effort on the defensive end, rather than saving his energy for offense, and was often matched up with the opposition's best perimeter player. He's a strong, compact guard who can fight through screens and hold his ground when opponents try to drive on him. He has quick feet and works hard to stay in great position. He closes out under control and contests shooters well.

He's a thief, playing the passing lanes and timing his reach ins well to disrupt offenses and create turnovers. Yet he's smart about it and picks his spots rather than gambling every time down the floor. His help defense is terrific, as he is always looking to provide support when teammates need it by rotating over to the right spot, yet he does so without losing his own man. His IQ and fundamentals are terrific.

To sum it up, he's just a pest.

Overall

Harris is the best two-way guard in this draft not named Marcus Smart. He's very smart and effective on both ends; a skilled offensive player and a relentless defensive one.

But his lack of polish or explosion as a penetrator worries me, and I'm not alone. Every year, Sports Illustrated posts evaluations of many draft prospects from a group of anonymous NBA Scouts - a group SI calls Finch. Here's what Finch had to say about Harris:

"He can put the ball in the basket, but I would love him to be a better ballhandler and make plays for others guys. He's a good athlete; I don't think he's a special athlete. He can guard better than guys like [Nik] Stauskas and [Doug] McDermott, but he's not nearly in their class as a shooter."

Harris visited Phoenix for a workout earlier this month, and Suns GM Ryan McDonough said he wasn't worried about Harris' drop in efficiency as a sophomore:

"I think he was dealing with some injuries this past year. I think he was banged up from all the intel we've gathered. He's one of the better two-way players in the draft. He certainly shot the ball well out here today and his ability to defend stood out. I don't think it was a matter of him getting overloaded, I think it was a matter of him getting physically worn down and beat up."

Fit in Phoenix

I like Harris, but I don't love him. Further complicating matters, there isn't a natural fit for him on this team at the moment. The Suns took their developmental back-up shooting guard last year in Archie Gooodwin. Are they ready to draft over him after just one year?

Harris is a guard; he doesn't have the versatility to play small forward that we see with bigger guards like current Sun Gerald Green or lottery prospect Nik Stauskas. Are the Suns maximizing their value of the No. 14 pick (he likely won't get to 18 if the Suns pass on him with their first pick) if they have both Goodwin an Harris basically fighting for the same minutes?

Potential solution would be to play the two together. Goodwin and Harris' skill sets are somewhat complementary as one is a shooter and one is a slasher. However, in the scenario, one or both of them would be asked to run the point, and I don't believe it would be a good idea to burden them with that responsibility this early in their careers. The Suns don't have the kind of playmaking bigs or wing that could make this young backcourt work.

The other solution is to split up Dragic and Bledsoe's minutes a bit more and go with more traditional backcourts with one of the point guards and one of the shooting guards. However, there's no reason to fix something that isn't broke, an that still isn't freeing up very many minutes anyway.

In terms of system fit, I think Harris could do very well in Phoenix. He's good in the open court, smart and a very good shooter who can space the floor for the point guards. There's a very good chance he's the best player available when the Suns go on the clock, and in that case it might be best just to go with talent and figure the rest out later.

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