In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we take a look at Nevada guard Jalen Harris.
With a year of collegiate eligibility remaining, Nevada guard Jalen Harris is testing the waters by entering the 2020 NBA Draft. It should be noted that the 6’5, 195-pound Harris could have returned to school if he did not receive the feedback he desired from NBA teams but, after a tremendous 2019-20 season for the Wolf Pack, Harris is an interesting prospect to evaluate and he appears to be sticking around as a member of the 2020 class.
Harris, who will turn 22 years old in August, spent the first two seasons of his college career at Louisiana Tech before transferring to Nevada. As a result of the move, Harris was forced to sit out the 2018-19 campaign but, given the success he enjoyed in his new home, the decision to transfer was validated in a significant way.
In 2019-20, Harris averaged 21.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists for Nevada, operating as the team’s clear No. 1 option on the offensive end. From an efficiency standpoint, his numbers were also solid, converting 49.5 percent of his two-point offerings, 36.2 percent of his three-point attempts and 82.3 percent of his shots from the free throw line. All told, Harris posted a 56 percent true shooting clip on 32.7 percent usage, maintaining strong efficiency despite a heavy workload.
As a prospect, Harris’ primary appeal comes in his ability to create shots for himself. He is a tremendously talented scorer that can generate shots in a number of different ways, with intriguing burst to beat defenders with the ball in his hands. The 21-year-old is also highly efficient in pick-and-roll settings, grading out in excellent fashion on a per-possession basis when utilizing that play type.
Harris may not be a flat-out elite ball-handler, but his creation ability is certainly a strength. He is a good athlete, while not being an absolutely spectacular one, and Harris possesses enough wiggle to translate to the NBA in one-on-one situations.
In addition to his scoring chops, Harris improved greatly as a passer at Nevada compared to his earlier sample size, and strides were made even during the 2019-20 season specifically. He posted a 26.5 percent assist rate, compared to only an 11.0 percent turnover rate, and Harris produced 6.6 assists per 100 possessions. He isn’t an elite passer by any stretch but, if his progression is to believed, Harris’ ability to distribute isn’t a gigantic question at this stage.
It should be noted that Harris will almost certainly be asked to play more off the ball at the professional level than he was during his season at Nevada. His spot-up shooting, while not a full-fledged concern, will be interesting to monitor, as Harris does have quality mechanics but the results weren’t always elite and he’ll need to refine that skill set at the next level.
Beyond his offensive appeal as a scorer and secondary distributor, Harris does have other intrigue. For one, he grabbed 10.9 rebounds per 100 possessions this season at Nevada and, even when adjusting for Mountain West competition, that is a strong mark for a player of his size and role. In fact, Harris posted a 17.6 percent defensive rebound rate and, while that isn’t high on the list of traits that will define him professionally, his willingness and ability to rebound is helpful.
Defensively, Harris is a bit of a mixed bag and, to put it plainly, an NBA team will need to project a bit in order to be comfortable with him on that end of the floor. In general, Harris does seem to know where to be in off-ball settings and, when translating his basketball IQ on the offensive end, there is a lot to like. With that said, effort was regularly a problem defensively at Nevada.
Some of the effort questions could be explained, at least in part, by his substantial offensive role and usage in college. In short, it can be quite difficult to carry a massive workload offensively and still find the energy to hold up defensively. Still, NBA teams will have to project his ability defensively when evaluating him ahead of the draft, and Harris will need to be much better.
Elsewhere, Harris’ on-ball defense is also a question mark. No team will be drafting Harris as a defensive stopper but, considering his solid size and athleticism, one would hope he can clean things up on the ball while developing into an average off-ball defender.
Given where Harris is expected to be considered on draft boards, the bar for defensive contributions will be a bit lower. At present, even those considered “high” on Harris would have him projected somewhere in the mid-second round, with scouts that are more skeptical pegging Harris for an undrafted position and potential Two-Way consideration.
Overall, Harris does have at least theoretical appeal as an offense-first bench option that can create shots for himself and others. If even one team is comfortable with that skill set as a point of strength and confident enough in a projection to avoid disaster on defense, it would be more than reasonable to invest a second round selection in Harris.