Nuggets Power Rankings: No. 12, Gary Harris


The Denver Nuggets’ preseason roster includes 19 players, and the team will try to figure out which 15 of them deserve a shot during the regular season throughout the team’s seven-game exhibition slate.

But, for now, how do these players stack up? We polled our staff writers and editor at Nugg Love to get a consensus power ranking of every player on the roster, and we’ll be releasing one player each day from October 5 to 23, starting from No. 19 and finishing at No. 1.

Gary Harris is a second-year shooting guard out of Michigan State. The sophomore played in 55 games his first year, and he only logged about 13 minutes a game and fewer than 3.5 points a contest. If he can prove himself to new head coach Mike Malone, Harris could sneak his way into some increased action. Let’s break down Harris’ strengths and weaknesses, and then how he projects to perform in the coming years.

Who is Gary Harris?

More from Nugg Love

Coming out of high school in Indiana as one of the top recruits back in 2012, Harris committed to Michigan State. He affirmed his star status while at MSU, snagging the Big 10 Freshman of the Year award as well as a slew of other accolades. Harris ended his tenure in college after his sophomore year, when he declared for the NBA draft.

The 6’4”, 210-pound 2-guard was selected with the 19th overall pick the first round by the Chicago Bulls in 2014. He was traded to the Nuggets later that night in a deal that also brought Jusuf Nurkic and a 2015 second-round pick over for the rights to Anthony Randolph and Creighton phenom Doug McDermott.

After averaging over 18 points a game in Summer League action, he earned a permanent spot on the Denver roster and then missed a chunk of time fighting off a back injury. In his late November debut, Harris notched 13 points in just 18 minutes. This outing, unfortunately, remained his season high, as he never got a real chance to prove himself behind a crowded guard rotation.

Harris has played pretty well in preseason so far, as he is averaging just over 11 points a game in about 27 minutes per contest. Obviously, preseason doesn’t totally predict regular-season production, but seeing minutes that high is good for Harris.


Harris is an athletic scorer who can stretch the floor with his shooting touch. He has proved he is a viable shooter, especially off the dribble. His range appears to reach beyond the three-point line, but he is more consistent and productive lofting up shots from mid-range. His shooting percentages were low during his rookie season, but that can be attributed towards playing in limited minutes and his youth.

Despite the minimal experience that can come with just 55 games played, he moves well without the ball in an NBA offense, which is important in getting open looks. He works well providing and using off-ball screens, something that new head coach Mike Malone will likely use to his advantage in Harris’ development.

Harris does have explosivness, even though he’s not known for it. If he creates enough separation between him and his defender to gain some speed, he attacks the rim with ferocity that isn’t common among most shooting guard. He doesn’t explode off the dribble past a defender that often, as he more often uses his footwork and defender’s positioning to his advantage and then explodes.

This explosiveness allows him to develop better in other facets of his game, such as passing off the dribble. His awareness is clearly very high, and his ability to find the big man off a dribble drive is surprising for a score-first two-guard.

Harris is a good 1v1 on ball defender. His footwork and quick hands are the result of great natural athleticism and solid coaching growing up. He has the ability to guard both guard positions and undersized small forwards, and is quick around screens. He averaged around two steals a game while at MSU, and nearly one a game last season in just 13 minutes of action with Denver last season. If his minutes increase, Harris will be one of the stronger defenders off Denver’s bench.

Finally, Harris takes good care of the ball. He doesn’t take many risks, which is surprising for such a young talent. He isn’t known for high turnovers or for making bad decisions in general. Smart play with and without the ball make him appealing to teammates and coaches.


At 6’4” and 210 pounds, Harris has average size for the shooting guard position and he isn’t strong enough to use his size towards his advantage over smaller defenders. Harris wasn’t known to take advantage of a matchup with an undersized player when he was switched onto point guards.

A strong concern coming out of college was his shot selection during crunch time, but this isn’t a facet of his game we have come in to contact with yet. He has displayed maturity on the court offensively and defensively, but hasn’t had much exposure to situations where his late-game heroics were needed.

This brings us to his next weakness, experience. Obviously this has been mentioned several times, but it is a clear problem for most young players in the league. This weakness loses traction the more games Harris plays, and it seems he has maturity beyond his current age of 21.

His general ball handling has shown improvement in the past year, but is still a clear lacking category in his repertoire. He wasn’t a big-time ball-handler out of college, but last season we saw spurts of a player that has been working on his handles. He hasn’t been depended on to play with the ball in his hands a lot while at MSU or on Denver, but a greater exposure to minutes at the point guard position could force him to improve.

Live Feed

Orlando Magic 2023 Time To Step Up: Gary Harris' shot volume
Orlando Magic 2023 Time To Step Up: Gary Harris' shot volume /

Orlando Magic Daily

  • Magic projected lineup and rotations heading into 2023-24 seasonFanSided
  • 3 easily acquirable sharpshooters the Washington Wizards should targetWiz of Awes
  • Orlando Magic 2023 Offseason: Final preseason/post-offseason gradesOrlando Magic Daily
  • 5 decisions the Orlando Magic face entering the 2024 seasonOrlando Magic Daily
  • Orlando Magic must now be better creating spot-up shotsOrlando Magic Daily
  • Overall Outlook:

    Harris has a bunch of upside.

    Entering his second year, he is still very raw as a player. He has shown tendencies and strengths as a shooter and scorer in general, but hasn’t been given many opportunities to this point to prove his worth.  He clearly remains a piece of the Nuggets’ future, as Denver picked up its third-year team option on Harris this offseason for about $1.7 million.

    New head coach Mike Malone has voiced his affirmation for Harris as a coachable player, and I expect Harris to earn steady minutes as one of the stronger scorers and guard defenders off the bench. His numbers won’t jump off the page this season , but his minutes could easily break 18 or 19 a game.

    This extra playing time will allow him to better showcase his skills on both ends of the floor. I predict him finishing the year averaging around 8.0 points and 1.4 steals per game ppg. He will have numerous games where he explodes for more than 20 points, and becomes a fan favorite in Denver in doing so.

    Further down the road, Harris should build the skills and strength to make him the starting shooting guard Denver saw when they acquired the prospect in June 2014. He has the foundation laid to become a strong role player on a good team.

    At just 21 years old, a two-way player with a competitive streak is something developmental-minded coaches and scouts drool over.

    Next: Nuggets Power Rankings: No. 13, Joffrey Lauvergne