Gary Harris made his Denver Nuggets debut yesterday as part of the team’s NBA Summer League squad in Las Vegas, and there really aren’t enough superlatives to describe his performance. The rookie out of Michigan State scored 33 points on 10-17 shooting, including 5-10 from beyond the arc and 8-9 from the charity stripe. He added six rebounds and two assists as well.
From the start, Harris looked completely comfortable on the court. He showed off all the skills that made him a coveted first round pick, including a smooth jumper, a nice catch-and-shoot game from 3-point land, and the ability to attack the basket and finish, even when multiple defenders stood in his way.
On the defensive end, Harris played his assignments tight and gave them little room to operate. He recorded two steals and was essentially a pest whenever his man touched the ball. The offensive display was awesome to behold, but if he can continue to show the same type of defensive tenacity he showed versus Toronto, then his future in a Denver Nuggets uniform is extremely bright.
Harris did turn the ball over four times and occasionally looked a little out of control on breaks, but that’s to be expected from any rookie adjusting to the speed of the game at the next level. Once he settles down a bit and acclimates to the improved defense that will face him in the NBA, he should be able to minimize those turnovers.
What made his performance even sweeter is the fact that he stole the spotlight from other highly touted rookies who were drafted before him. Prior to the Nuggets game, much of the buzz had been about Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. But Harris filled the stat sheet in a way that neither of those top draft picks could in their matchup on Friday (Wiggins finished with 18 points and 3 rebounds; Parker posted 17 points and 9 boards).
I know it’s easy to assign too much meaning to one game (and a Summer League game at that), but Nuggets fans have to be extremely pleased with what they saw from Gary Harris yesterday. It’s the type of performance that all but guarantees he’ll see minutes this year and shows he will definitely be part of the conversation when it comes to determining who will emerge as the go-to guys in a suddenly crowded backcourt situation.