2014 NBA Draft - Gary Harris looks to bring excellence to both ends

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The five-star shooting guard was electric in his two years at MSU. Here's a look at how Gary stacks up in Thursday's draft.

Since high school, Gary Harris has been pegged as a future NBA starter. The consensus five-star shooting guard chose MSU over Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, and Purdue; his mother Joy was the Boilermakers' first woman All-American in basketball. Ever since Harris enrolled at Michigan State the questions was not whether he would stay all four years, but rather when he would declare for the NBA draft. Harris made quite the impact his freshman year, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors by scoring 12.9 points per game and making 41.1% of his threes, along with being the Spartans' co-MVP on defense.

Harris's sophomore year found him improving in most areas. His number of steals increased, he went from a second team All-Big Ten teamer to a first team All Big-Ten teamer, but suffered a drop in his three point percentage from 41.4% to 35.2%. In two years at Michigan State he scored more than 1,000 points for the Spartans, and despite a heroic effort in MSU's Elite 8 game against Connecticut (22 points on 8-14 shooting, 4-9 from three), the Spartans went out to the defending national champions. Soon after, Harris surprised very few and declared his intentions to go pro.

So what can Harris bring to the table? Here's a look at how he stacks up.

Strengths

  • Athleticism: While not an A+ athlete, there's no doubt that Harris was one of the most athletic players on the court during his time at MSU, and should have the requisite speed and strength to play in the NBA.  He should be able to check most two guards without issue, and can throw down impressive dunks in traffic as seen here:
  • Shooting inside the arc: Harris can use his athleticism on a variety of drives to the basket and pull-up jumpers if his defender marks him too close outside the three-point line. Harris made over 50% of his twos in his two years at MSU, and shot over 80% from the foul line his sophomore year.
  • Defense: Harris isn't the flashiest defender, but he always seems to be in front of his man. He stole the ball on 3.4% of the opponents' possessions last season, putting him fifth in the Big Ten, and allowing him to create offense like this:

  • Character: While not a natural leader, Harris was never in trouble in his two years at Michigan State, had no issues with his teammates, and will be a positive influence on whatever team drafts him.

Weaknesses

  • Consistency: As mentioned before, Harris's three-point percentage dropped by almost six points from his freshman to his sophomore year, for reasons mostly baffling to MSU fans. This lack of accuracy could pop up at some inopportune times, such as a two-point loss to Wisconsin last season where Harris went 0-7 from three.
  • Injuries: Harris never had any serious injuries at MSU, as he only missed five games in his two seasons. However, he seemed to pick up nagging small problems during his tenure at Michigan State, which sometimes visibly affected his performance.
  • Height: Harris measured 6'2" without his shoes at the NBA Combine, which is a couple inches shorter than the NBA likes its shooting guards.

Conclusion

Harris is one of the top three shooting guards in the draft - while not elite in any one category, he is NBA quality on both ends of the floor, and depending on what happens with UCLA's Zach Levine and Michigan's Nik Stauskas, could be the first shooting guard off the board. If he is, it'll be because of his defensive capabilities. Most mock drafts have Harris going in one of the late lottery picks (around 10-13), and that's where I think he'll go as well.

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