Is Gary Harris An All-Star?
Gary Harris just keeps getting better. Every year we think he’s hit his ceiling, but he just blasts through it. Ever on the hunt for the perfect nickname for him, Nuggets Nation, I present my most recent idea: The Wonkavator. No ceiling can hold this guy and he always seems to rise to the occasion. His first week of the NBA season has seen him outplay his superstar teammate Nikola Jokic on multiple occasions.
It’s not often a guy can walk onto the court against the Golden State Warriors and look like the best player on the court, and that’s exactly what Gary did. The Warriors put the screws on the Nuggets in the fourth and the offense couldn’t get anything going. Gary Harris picked his way through the defense and made something happen.
We’ve known that Gary Harris is an excellent shooter since his sophomore season. We now know he’s an excellent cutter and seems to come back better at it every offseason. Last year we learned that he’s one of the best finishers among all guards and even mixed in a little mid range game. This season he’s flashing an off the dribble game I’m not sure we’ve ever seen from him and he’s very good at it so far.
Long have Nuggets fans talked about how difficult of a guard Jokic is, but Gary is right there with him. You can’t take your eyes off of him when he’s off the ball because he’ll back door cut for a dunk. You can’t fade off of him when he’s got the ball in his hands, because he’ll knock down a shot right over you. You can’t crowd him on the three point line because he can take it right to the rim, where once again he’s among the best in the league.
An added wrinkle we’ve seen this year is that the Nuggets seem to be using him more as the primary ball handler in the half court. Some of this might have to do with Barton’s injury, but Harris seems more than capable of filling Will’s shoes in this regard. The two man game that is developing between him and Jokic is going to be nearly impossible to defend for years to come because they can both score in so many different ways.
With Barton sidelined for 6+ weeks Gary Harris has the opportunity to show just how good he’s become as both a ball handler and potentially a playmaker for others. If he plays like he has through the first 6 games he’s in line for an all star appearance (or inevitably an all star snub). At this point in his career every team in the league knows not to sleep on Gary.
Nikola Jokic has to be aggressive
In the first 3 games of the season the Nuggets offense struggled. Everything seemed a bit more difficult for them and it fell to Jokic to make something happen. His response was to take it at whoever was guarding him and it resulted in him getting to the line 33 times in the those games. Aggressive Jokic has always been the best Jokic, and seeing him come alive this early when the team needed it most was refreshing.
However passive Jokic reared his ugly head again after the first few games and because of this his frequent trips to the free throw line all but disappeared. Jokic has to remain aggressive in order for this team to operate at its highest level. We have yet to see the offense play like it did much of the second half of last year and a lot of this comes down to Jokic and his passive nature.
Jamal Murray is finding his game
The young point came out of the gate with some inconsistent performances, but seems to have found a groove with his own offense. It’s clear he’s a dynamic scorer capable of great bursts of offense. That said there are concerns about how he can handle an offense as he seems to be slow to set up the offense and has trouble finding his teammates. He’s unquestioningly an incredibly talented player and likely a future star, but I wonder if he can really play point guard in the NBA. He’s still young and definitely has time to figure the point guard thing out, but until then I definitely see an opportunity for Monte Morris to pick up minutes because of his ability to run an offense. Murray will always be valuable because of his ability to score, but the Nuggets may have to find alternative ways to run their offense.
Trey Lyles needs to figure it out
I’ve never been as sold on Trey Lyles as a lot of people have, but he looked pretty good in preseason so I had high hopes. Thus far he has disappointed in the regular season. He’s hesitating to shoot and this has lead to turnovers and bad shots. It seems like he’s in his own head and overthinking things on offense. He tries to do a bit too much and ends up hurting the team more than he helps it.
His best runs have been when he settles into a defensive role and lets the offense come to him. That’s his game, he shouldn’t posting up unless he’s got a mismatch and he really shouldn’t be driving to the basket unless he’s attacking a close out. We’ve seen flashes of the good Trey, but he’ll need to be more consistent if he wants a payday this offseason or even stay in the rotation once the Nuggets get healthy.
Malik Beasley should start in Barton’s absence
Torrey Craig has thus far been chosen to fill Barton’s shoes in the starting lineup and this is largely due to his defensive talent and work ethic. However his presence in the starting lineup has been a huge negative on the team’s spacing on offense. We’ve now seen both the Lakers and the Pelicans ignore him on the perimeter. That combined with a similar thing beginning with Millsap has made it difficult for the offense to find a rhythm.
We saw in the Pelicans’ game that Malone chose to go with Beasley a good deal and the offense almost immediately picked up as soon as he came into the game. Beasley is a talented shooter and a high energy player. In a lot of ways he plays a lot like Barton and appears to be a seamless fit with the starting unit. Right now it seems that Malone prefers the older more defensively sound Craig, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Beasley breaks into the starting lineup before Barton returns.