NBA to NFL Crossover: Nuggets guard Gary Harris

Rookie established himself as a strong two-way player at Michigan State
by Aaron Lopez

In two years at Michigan State, Gary Harris earned a reputation as one of college’s top perimeter defenders.

In his 2014 Summer League debut, the rookie shooting guard showed he could also score, dropping 33 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

He is the type of two-way player valued in any sport.

With the NFL preseason in full swing, we thought it would be interesting to see where Harris and some of his Denver Nuggets teammates would fit best if they traded their basketball gear for a helmet and shoulder pads.

On defense, we have Darrell Arthur (defensive end), Kenneth Faried (defensive end), J.J. Hickson (linebacker) and Nate Robinson (cornerback). On offense, it’s Arron Afflalo (quarterback), Wilson Chandler (tight end), Randy Foye (wide receiver), Ty Lawson (running back) and Timofey Mozgov (offensive line). Danilo Gallinari (placekicker) is the main man on special teams.

For our final slot, Harris gets the nod in the secondary as a defensive back who can also do other things on the field.

NBA Position: Cornerback

The NFL’s elite cornerbacks possess a combination of size and speed. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Harris has both, giving him the ability to cover point guards, shooting guards and small forwards.

At Michigan State, he averaged 1.57 steals in 69 games, including 1.8 as a sophomore. In addition to being the Spartans’ best defender, he averaged a team-leading 16.7 points while helping Michigan State advance to the Elite Eight.

Harris’ versatility makes him a candidate to moonlight on offense and special teams.

NFL Counterpart: Patrick Peterson

At 6-foot-1, 219 pounds, Peterson is a big, physical cornerback who has established himself as one of the best at his position. In addition to his size, Peterson boasts a 4.34-second 40 time, allowing him to run step-for-step with most receivers.

Peterson, 24, has 12 career interceptions in three NFL seasons, and he returned four punts for touchdowns as a rookie in 2011. He also has excellent hands, allowing him to take snaps as a receiver for the Arizona Cardinals.

Final thought:

As a 19-year-old rookie, Harris will have to earn his minutes by contributing on defense. Peterson enters his fourth season with the intention of validating a new contract that made him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history (in terms of guaranteed money).

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