Michigan and Michigan State had five players taken in the 2014 NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne. This series will look at how each player fits with their respective teams. First up, Gary Harris.
Gary Harris was one of the few unexpected slides in the Draft. A lottery pick by many experts’ estimations, Harris was picked up with the 19th selection by the Bulls. He was about to complete the Midwest trifecta of an Indiana high school, Michigan college, and Chicago pro team until he was informed he would be sent to the Denver Nuggets. The price, along with center Jusnuf Nurkic, was Creighton forward Doug McDermott.
The Nuggets went 36-46 last year, missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. The rough season was a letdown, as the previous year’s campaign saw the Nuggets go 57-25.
However, the downturn wasn’t unexpected. Free agent Andre Iguodala left before the season to join the Golden State Warriors, and Danilo Gallinari was hurt for most of the season. This forced Ty Lawson into more of a centerpiece role, while secondary players like Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye were expected to contribute more.
Missing a high-caliber shooting guard, the Nuggets just reacquired Arron Afflalo (who was traded away in the Dwight Howard mega-trade, which landed the Nuggets Iguodala) from the Magic. Afflalo has steadily improved each year in the league, upping his point totals while maintaining solid shooting percentages.
This is who Harris figures to backup, but that brings into question Randy Foye. Afflalo represents an upgrade over Foye, but not by much. Foye was starting, but he also does very well coming off the bench for instant offense. This seems to be Harris’ main competition for second unit minutes.
The Nuggets now have a logjam in their backcourt. Lawson, Aaron Brooks, Nate Robinson are all point guards, but the latter two play with more of a shooting guard mentality. This puts pressure on the off guard to play without the ball, but this is something Harris will excel at. He just has to find minutes amongst Afflalo and Foye.
One thing Harris has going for him is the presence of excellent mentor. Afflalo is a very similar player to Harris, tough-nosed guards who play both ways. Harris, an already excellent defender, will be able to learn the nuances of NBA defense from the UCLA product. Afflalo will also have some words on the other end of the court, showing Harris how to steadily improve on offense from year to year.
Still, one can’t help but think about Harris with the Bulls. While getting a source of buckets and replacement for Loul Deng in McDermott, Harris might have fit even better. He would have no problem buying into Coach Tom Tibadeu’s defensive system, and he still provides a solid amount of offense. If Chicago signed Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose came back healthy, Harris would be a great compliment for the two stars. Chicago is pretty thin at the shooting guard position, so it would have been ideal for Harris as well.
Instead, the league will get to see how Harris develops with the run-and-gun Nuggets. Denver and Michigan State fans alike are anxious to see how he transitions from green and white to powder blue and gold.