2017-18 Nuggets Player Breakdown: Devin Harris
By the time February rolled around, the Nuggets knew they were in need of experienced, veteran help at reserve point guard, and Devin Harris arrived via trade in February to help.
With 14 years in the NBA, and still playing at a high level, Harris fit the bill. He has so much experience that his career stats take up a full screen, top-to-bottom when scrolling through them on the NBA.com stats site. And he ended up putting a lot of heady play on the court for the Nuggets when they needed it.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone was looking for Harris to push the pace, and Harris did just that. His pace of 100.75 was fourth-best on the team among regular rotation players from his first game, on Feb. 10, to the end of the season. For comparison, the team’s overall pace during his 27 games was 99.98.
Overall, Harris averaged 8.2 points and 2.5 assists. He was second on the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.48) in his 27 games with the Nuggets. Harris, who came to the team from Dallas, is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“With the young guys that they have, learning to play with these guys, I would like to know what a full season looks like,” Harris said. “I would like to continue to help these young guys as well as getting better in the situation myself. That’s definitely on the table.
“Coming from the situation that I was in, being able to play meaningful games, playoff atmosphere games, it’s been great for me. Especially, late in my career. I really enjoyed my time.”
OFFENSE: Once Harris got comfortable with the offense and could to playing without thinking, he was a highly effective player. He graded out well in all of his most-used actions – spot-up shooting, handling the ball in pick-and-roll, transition and in handoffs.
In pick-and-roll, Harris was best in making decisions with the ball. And he quickly got on the same page with Nuggets bigs, Nikola Jokić and Mason Plumlee. With Jokic, he regularly slipped passes to the big man, who mostly popped out to take jump shots. Harris quickly created space by taking two defenders and then snapping the pass to Jokić right where he could catch and shoot.
With Plumlee, Harris was able to turn the corner on screen-roll action and draw multiple defenders to him – and then lob the ball up for an alley-oop dunk. Harris had 13 assists to Plumlee and 14 to Jokić. So, 27 of his 67 assists in a Nuggets uniform – 40 percent – went to those two players.
And because he was a threat to make a shot, defenses had to play him honestly, and Harris could almost always pick out the pass he wanted. When he opted to shoot, he was effective. From March 7 to the end of the regular season, as he was settling into the Nuggets’ system, Harris shot 43.3 percent from the field and 38 percent from the 3-point line. He was a threat off the ball playing alongside starting point guard Jamal Murray, and in scramble situations when the Nuggets got an offensive rebound. Harris averaged 1.101 points per possession as a spot-up shooter with the Nuggets, which ranked in the top 25 percent of the league in that span of time.
DEFENSE: Harris was helpful in pick-and-roll coverage as part of five-man units that held opponents to .757 points per possession and 37 percent shooting in screen-roll plays. Opponents turned the ball over in 16 percent of the screen-roll plays that Harris was part of defending.
Harris had 11 of his 14 steals with the Nuggets in the month of March, including four games of two steals. Defending in spot up shooting situations was second-most on the list. Combined, defending pick-and-roll and spot up shooting accounted for nearly 70 percent of all of Harris’s action on that end of the court.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter