The Denver Nuggets have withstood an early rough stretch in 2018. On November 5, head coach Michael Malone and company were 9-1 following a victory over Boston. Since then, the Nuggets have only garnered two victories against Atlanta and Minnesota. During their skid, the Nuggets struggled on the defensive end of the floor. They relinquished 100-plus points in all but one game. On a roster where the oldest player is 33, defensive lapses are bound to happen. Playing with high intensity game in and game out is a tall order for an up and coming team. However, if the Nuggets want to compete with the NBA elite, they will need to play more consistently on both sides of the floor. One player that can help them do so is shooting guard Gary Harris.
Gary Harris is in his fourth season with the Denver Nuggets. Prior to making a name for himself in the NBA, Harris excelled at both the prep and collegiate levels. The Indiana-native was a two-sport athlete during his time at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Indiana. As a junior at Hamilton, Harris led the Royals to their second sectional championship in school history. Along with excelling on the court, he also played well on the gridiron as Harris played football at Hamilton for three years. In those three years, Harris helped the Royals capture three league championships as well as a sectional championship in his senior year. Harris was rated among the top basketball players in the nation coming out of high school and signed his National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Michigan State.
As a freshman for the Spartans during the 2012-2013 season, Gary Harris was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He became the first Michigan State player to win the award since 1986. In addition to his Freshman of the Year honors, Harris was also a second-team All-Big Ten selection and earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors. In his second and final season with the Spartans, the accolades continued to pile up. Harris earned numerous awards such as first-team All-Big Ten, honorable mention Associated Press All-American, and All-Big Ten Defensive Team. Following two successful seasons in East Lansing, Harris decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility and declare for the 2014 NBA draft.
On June 26, 2014, Gary Harris was selected 19th overall by the Chicago Bulls. However, he would not ever see playing time with Chicago as he was traded to the Nuggets later that evening. On July 31, he signed his rookie contract with Denver and began playing in the Summer League. He made his NBA debut on November 14 against the Indiana Pacers. In 18 minutes, Harris scored 13 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block en route to a 108-87 victory. As a rookie during the 2014-15 season, he appeared in 55 games, averaging 3.4 points per game.
Since his rookie campaign, Gary Harris has been a steady contributor in each of his last three seasons with the Denver Nuggets. Last season, he averaged 17.5 points per game to complement a .827 free throw percentage. The .827 mark currently stands as his career-best through four full seasons. Through 18 games this season, he maintained a .797 free throw percentage. It is clear that general manager Arturas Karnisovas wants Harris to be a part of Denver’s future. In October 2017, Harris inked a new four-year deal worth $84 million. This new contract seemed to provide incentive for Harris as he delivered in the clutch at the end of 2017. He scored a season-high 36 points in a 124-118 loss to Boston on December 13. This year, Harris continues to compete at a high level. He drained the game-winner against Oklahoma City on February 1 and returned from an 11-game absence to help the Nuggets defeat Portland on April 9.
If the Denver Nuggets are going to get back on track, they’ll need Gary Harris to step up. At 24, he is still young and there will be stretches where he will struggle. If he can learn to play the shooting guard position at a high level, the sky is the limit for Harris and the Nuggets. With each passing season, Harris has shown he can be a player to elevate Denver to the next level. If he can stay healthy and avoid groin injuries that have plagued his young career, Harris can develop into a star shooting guard. With Harris helping to lead the charge, the Denver Nuggets will be a formidable opponent in the Western Conference into 2019.