Defense could be early calling card for Nuggets rookie Gary Harris

Guard also wants to prove he can knock down shots for Denver
by Aaron Lopez
Nuggets.com

When Arron Afflalo made the jump from UCLA to the NBA in 2007, he joined a playoff-tested Detroit Pistons team filled with experienced players at nearly every position.

Not considered as an elite shooter coming out of college, Afflalo earned his playing time by proving he could be valuable as a perimeter defender.

Seven years later, Gary Harris has a locker just a few feet from Afflalo as he prepares to embark on a similar path to playing time as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets.

Harris, the 19th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, knows that defense will have to be his calling card if he wants to make an impact on a Denver team poised to be three deep at nearly every position.

“Defense is going to be the most important thing because if I can’t defend I can’t play,” Harris said. “That’s going to be huge for me from the jump.”

The jump begins this weekend at the Samsung Summer League in Las Vegas. Harris figures to be the starting shooting guard for the Nuggets when they play their first game Saturday against the Toronto Raptors.

In addition to fortifying his reputation as a strong defender, Harris wants to show that he can knock down 3s. In two seasons at Michigan State, he shot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc. For the record, Afflalo made 37.3 percent of his 3s in three years at UCLA.

Through dedication and hard work, Afflalo has become one of the NBA’s most accurate marksmen, finishing among the top 10 in 3-point percentage in three of the past five seasons.

“I’m still trying to work on that,” Harris said. “I’m trying to get adjusted to this 3-point line and getting as many shots as possible before practice and after practice.”

Because his contract was still being finalized, Harris was limited to shooting drills on the first day of Denver’s two-day mini-camp at Pepsi Center this week. He was a full participant on the second day.

“It felt good to finally get out there,” he said.

And on Saturday in Las Vegas, he’ll finally get his first taste of NBA action.

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