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Gary Harris Flying Under the Radar

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Gary Harris Flying Under the Radar

James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan – these are just some of the names that come to mind when we think of the best shooting guards in the NBA. When discussing the best shooting guards age 25 or younger, the names that will likely come up are Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum, Devin Booker, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Hood and Zach LaVine. The player that almost never comes up in these discussions, despite having a great season, is Gary Harris of the Denver Nuggets.

It’s true that Nikola Jokic has been fantastic this season, and is probably drawing a big portion of the national attention that the Denver Nuggets have been receiving. But when you take the time to watch a handful of Nuggets games, it’s not hard to see just how good Harris has been this season and how valuable he is to his team.

The Nuggets drafted Harris with the 19th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft after trading the rights to Doug McDermott (selected 11th in the same draft) and Anthony Randolph to the Chicago Bulls. The Nuggets also received the 16th pick (used on Jusuf Nurkic) and a future second-round pick in the deal. Selected 19th overall, Harris was considered a steal since he was projected to be a lottery pick.

Per 36 minutes of court time, Harris is averaging 17.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 43 percent from the field. In the month of February, Harris is averaging 17 points, three rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and a blistering 47.9 percent from three-point range (on 5.9 attempts per game).

Harris is currently ranked third in the league in three-point percentage on catch-and-shoot attempts (for players who shoot three or more three-pointers per game), trailing only Otto Porter Jr. and Stephen Curry. He has improved his shooting efficiency significantly and is showing signs of becoming a capable secondary-playmaker. In Denver’s offense, Harris isn’t often put in a position to make plays for others, but he has performed this role well when given the opportunity.

Beyond his impressive shooting and developing offensive game, Harris is also establishing himself as an effective defensive player. At 6-foot-4, Harris is a bit undersized at the shooting guard position, but has a sneaky amount of athleticism, as we saw in Denver’s matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies:

He isn’t quite as athletic as Derrick Rose or DeMar DeRozan were earlier in their respective careers, but he has quick feet and plenty of burst in the open court. Harris has shown an ability to jump passing lanes, which often leads to easy dunks in transition. He also has shown a solid understanding of Denver’s defensive schemes, often making the right rotation and hedging his opponents into help side defenders. His defensive instincts and impact are a huge plus for a Denver team that has struggled defensively all season.

The Nuggets are currently 26-33 and are fighting to hold onto the eighth and final Western Conference playoff seed. The Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans are in striking distance of the eighth seed, so Denver will have to close out the season in a strong way to hold off the competition. Over the last month, Harris has shown that he’s up for the challenge.

Jaylen Brown Finding His Stride in Boston

Avery Bradley has been sidelined with an Achilles injury for some time now. Bradley’s extended absence is concerning for the Boston Celtics, who rely on him for his shooting and perimeter defense. However, the upside to Bradley’s absence has been the emergence of rookie Jaylen Brown.

Brown, age 20, is known mostly for his athleticism and potential. However, on Sunday night in Detroit, Brown produced 13 points, five rebounds, two steals and one assist and knocked down a clutch three-pointer from the corner, which gave the Celtics the lead and helped them seal the road victory.

“I’ve worked on my shot because that’s what people have been critiquing me on my whole life,” Brown said after the game. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better, and I’m going to continue to get better at it. I like to get to the basket, but some of those shots I do have to let fly.”

Brown shot just 29.4 percent from three-point range in his one college season, so he wasn’t expected to be a consistent threat from distance early in his NBA career. Brown is shooting 33.3 percent from three-point range this season, which is a solid improvement, but is still a bit low for a starting wing player. However, through eight games played in February, Brown is shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc on 2.3 attempts per game. That percentage is unsustainable, but it’s a nice development for a player that has worked so hard on his mechanics and consistency.

“I’ve taken thousands of shots in the corner. It’s all mental,” Brown said. “That’s all it comes down to, is to be ready, wait for your opportunity and execute.”

Brown was invited to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend, but turned down the invitation so he could focus his time and energy towards being prepared for the remainder of the season.

“I was off eight or nine days, almost two weeks, so I knew I wanted to come back [to the gym in Waltham, Massachusetts] and be ready when the season kicked back off,” said Brown. “So that’s what I did. I just got mentally re-locked in. I still have a long way to go, but the second half of the season I want to be a lot more locked in.”

So far, the results have been promising for Brown and the Celtics. Boston will need Bradley healthy in order to make a deep playoff run, but it’s nice to have a young, talented player like Brown to step in and make the most of the opportunity.

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About Jesse Blancarte

Jesse Blancarte

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.