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April 3, 2020

No Talking Heads, Just Talking Hoops

What’s Going on with Gary Harris’ Shooting?

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris is a key part of Denver’s rotation, likely an All-Defense candidate, and a quality all-around player. He’s having a solid season in his 6th year putting up 11ppg/2.8rpg/2.2apg on 42.1% fg/31.6% 3p/82.3% FT while routinely guarding the opposing team’s best guard.

However, a few years ago, I and many others were watching Harris emerge as a potential All-Star on the young rebuilding Nuggets.

Just two seasons ago in 2017/18, Harris was an efficient 3-level scoring monster who at age 23, was posting 17.5ppg/2.6rpg/2.9apg shooting 48.5% from the field and 39.6% from three on nearly six attempts per game.

I’m not writing this to nitpick and tear down Harris as a player. I really just want to dive into what’s happened in his career and figure out how this has happened and speculate as to whether or not we’ll see Harris return to his previous form.

One of the primary reasons for his drop in play is more than likely injury. Since Harris became a full-time starter in his second season, Harris has played in only 294 of 414 possible games, missing 29% of all games played. He has been routinely plagued by a myriad of injuries for long stretches of the past three seasons. This in turn seems to have really taken a hit on Harris’ ability to finish at the rim. In his peak year (17/18) Harris shot 69% at the rim which for a guard and frankly any player, is phenomenal. His ability to finish there regressed to 58% last year and while he’s gotten back to a respectable 62%, he’s still miles off where he was.

However, the most startling decline has been Gary’s jumpshot. While his ability to hit corner three’s has remained constant, his shot accuracy above the break has fallen off a cliff. Harris shot 39% (118/299) on non-corner threes, last year he dropped to 32% (54/169), and this season he has plummeted to 26% (28/109). This drop is MASSIVE and not in a good way. Harris’ catch and shoot attempts have decreased the past two years (4.4 to 2.9) and while his pull up attempts from three have stayed roughly the same (1.4 attempts/game) his efficiency on those have dropped from 34% to 25.5% over the past two seasons.

The emergence of other guards/wings in Denver has also likely played a factor, but I believe the way in which his game has been impacted is due to his injuries. He’s struggled with lower body injuries throughout the past few years, most notably a hip injury. I watch a lot of Denver, but haven’t noticed any real change in his jumper, but I’d go out on a limb and say he’s probably getting less lift on his shot.

He’s been banged up slightly this year, but he’s on pace to play his highest number of games since his second season. Harris turned 25 just before this season started, in year six of his career , and if he is going to fully develop in the way he showed, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later as he approaches his prime. I fully believe in Harris to still grow as a player and that if Denver is going to maximize their potential, his development is instrumental.

Once again, I cannot stress enough the quality of Harris as a player now. If he doesn’t return to those near all-star levels, I don’t put that on him at all. Sports are a bitch, you fight everyday, putting insane stress on your body that it isn’t meant to go through. Injuries are very real and devastating. More often it is the smaller quiet ailments that build up and derail a career over time, rather than the sudden destructive injury that’s visualized in film and TV.

I hope to see Gary healthy and thriving in Denver soon and wish him nothing but the best.

What do you think about Harris’ career? Who’s another player that’s been plagued by injuries that you wish could’ve had a healthier career? Let me know down below!

(All stats from Cleaning the Glass, Basketball Reference, and NBA.com)

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