Babcock Hoops' director of scouting Derek Murray breaks down 2020 NBA Draft prospect Jalen Harris of the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Position: SG/PG | Height: 6’5” | Weight: 195 | Team: Nevada | Class: Junior
Pull Up Shooting
Pick and Roll Capability
Attacking the Lane
Above Average Ball Handling
Free Throw Shooting
Spot Up Shooting
Average Vision and Passing
Inconsistent Point-of-Attack Defense
Lacks Left Hand as Passer and Scorer
The importance of bench scoring in today’s NBA cannot be overstated. The most successful teams are driven by superstars, but even they need reliable bench units to hold leads over the course of the season. For me, guys like Lou Williams, Dennis Schroder, and Jordan Clarkson come to mind as impactful bench scorers who have propelled their units during the 2020 season, and ultimately into the Orlando Bubble. After averaging 21.7 points-per-game in his only season at Nevada, Jalen Harris has the offensive firepower and versatility to assert himself as one of the NBA’s next bench unit drivers.
Harris’ biggest strength is his ability to create for himself. He excels getting into the lane, and as a result, can also hit pull up jump shots out of this attack. His quick first step allows him to get downhill and his positional size creates advantages in the lane. The best scoring guards are generally given credit for their speed and quickness, but the elite are manipulators of defenders utilizing change of direction and pace. Harris does an excellent job getting his man on his heels by using jab steps, crafty handles, and angles, creating leverage on the way to the rim. Harris displayed good, but not great, finishing at the rim this season. He ranked in the 69th percentile in around the basket finishes, converting on 61% at the rim. He had 11.2% (12-of-107) of his rim attempts blocked last year, a result of heavy right-hand dominance, but also a willingness to take contact in traffic. The aspect of finishing he’ll need to maximize at the NBA level is his free throw rate. He registered a free throw rate 32% in 2019-20 and converted 82% of his attempts; if he can regularly contribute points at the line and be a contact initiator to draw fouls on a second unit, his value would greatly increase.
The appeal of drafting Harris lies heavily in his projectability to make shots. On the ball, Harris is phenomenal at creating space and getting his own looks. He ranks 82nd percentile as a pull-up shooter, using good footwork and a powerful one-two to get into his shot. Moving left or right, he employs a mean step-back and has also flashed fantastic balance on fadeaways. It seems that every televised NBA game lately has a few mentions of the mid-range shot, and how teams feel about it from a philosophical standpoint. While it’s not, and likely won’t be, a big part of anyone’s game for a while outside of maybe Kawhi Leonard, Harris has flashed the ability score from the mid-range. The terrific elevation he gets out of his gather provides enough space to get a good look, even though his release point isn’t especially high.
The difference in Harris being a valuable 6th or 7th man, and being a back end rotation player, will be his spot-up three-point shooting. At Nevada, he connected on 36.2% (67-of-185) of his three-point attempts, 76.1% of which were assisted. This efficiency isn’t alarming, no, but it will be interesting to monitor what type of role he’s asked to play at the NBA level. Because he’s not an elite passer at this point in his career, he will likely get substantial minutes off the ball, but he can certainly handle point guard responsibilities when tasked. Referring back to the notable bench scorers I mentioned at the beginning, Williams and Schroder have found tremendous success off the ball due to their catch and shoot numbers. They rank 81st and 83rd percentile respectively, while Clarkson came in at the 57th. At Nevada, Harris finished in the 46th percentile in the catch and shoot, leading me to a Jordan Clarkson-Esque role at the NBA level. He has excelled in isolation and getting to the rim, but the key to unlocking the next level is a consistent three-ball.
In 18 Mountain West Conference games, he hit a phenomenal 41.4% (53-of-128) from deep, silencing early critics of his rocky start to the year. Harris demonstrates strong pre-shot footwork and was used in a variety of ways this season, including a multitude of screens. His mechanics are clean with little wasted movement, although his elbow can flare from time to time. When shooting off-movement he has a quick release which is promising, and even when he appears off-balance due to his feet placement, he’s not. With tremendous body control and a knack for putting the ball in the hoop, I believe in Harris’ ability to shoot and become a reliable perimeter player at the next level.
When tasked with on-ball minutes, Harris projects to be a reliable pick-and-roll initiator when called upon. Last season he ranked 88th percentile in 210 pick-and-roll possessions. He has tight handles and an array of dribble moves with which he can create advantages and also excels in manipulating drop coverages, which as we’ve seen in the NBA Bubble, has made a major impact. He’s also really good at changing directions and using defenders’ feet and leverage against them. Passing hasn’t always been Harris’ strong suit, but he did show that he can be trusted as a pick and roll passer in doses. He has adequate vision and doesn’t make the most advanced reads or passes, but often found the roll man when the window was there. He had tremendous success at Nevada as a combo guard but can play both positions efficiently. If he shows consistency running the point and remains reliable as an offensive driver, it could result in significantly more playing time.
At the end of the day, his offensive skill set is worth taking a shot and providing him an opportunity at the NBA level. Every organization needs guys who can get their own, unassisted buckets in a 1-on-1 matchup, and that’s precisely what you get from Harris. With positional size, creativity, and a knack for scoring, there is a path for success for him in the League. If his spot-up shooting clicks, we may have a terrific, second unit, offensive spark on our hands.
Harris isn’t generally regarded as an impactful defender, which is understandable based upon his statistics. He averaged only 1.1 steals and a lowly 0.1 block per contest this season, but I feel that there are a handful of areas that he can provide value.
First, he has the physical frame and footwork to be an above-average point-of-attack defender. When he’s locked in, he’s agile and moves with purpose, avoiding screens to cut off drives either direction. I really appreciate his lateral quickness and ability to change directions, which helps him stay in front of his man as well as recover for a shot contest if the ball handler comes to an abrupt stop. He also displayed the ability to stop drives and post-ups using his chest and upper body strength. Harris’ physical tools are there, but his pick and roll defense was inconsistent at times; occasionally he would get buried in the screen or attempt a late switch incorrectly, leaving the lane vulnerable for an easy bucket. In multiple games this year he was asked to defend the opponent’s best player for long stretches. In each contest, although he didn’t fill up the defensive box score, he was pesky on the ball and created many difficult looks for his man. While defending on-ball may not ever become a strength of his, I certainly don’t envision it becoming a liability.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous breakdown, guards who are disinterested in contributing on the defensive end give me headaches. Harris is one who provides good energy on this end of the floor; he has his lapses but is regularly keyed into the possession when he’s off the ball. He’s generally in a good position and makes correct rotations around the rim. He also tags roll men and is willing to stunt ball handlers often, which, even when they don’t result in a tangible statistic, can positively impact the possession.
An underrated part of Harris’ game is his willingness to rebound. This past season he secured 6.5 per game. Harris is regularly crashing the lane to collect boards and can be especially physical when boxing out. It’s not every day you find a 6’5” combo guard willing to battle and scrap down low, so I came away very impressed. Ultimately, Harris won’t provide a ton of versatility on the defensive side, but when he’s on the floor you’ll get an active competitor who can defend either guard position.
Represented by agents Mike George and Merle Scott of One Legacy Sports, Harris enters the 2020 NBA Draft on the underrated side among the media, which I feel is a disservice. He led the Mountain West and finished 14th in the country with 21.7 points per game, showing NBA scouts that he can get his own bucket when needed. With good positional size, Harris projects to add lineup flexibility at the NBA level, and can be a player you want on the floor in a tight game.
The best teams in the NBA, especially contenders, have role players who fulfill specific, unique responsibilities. If I’m a front office expecting to be a mover and shaker in the playoffs in the next few years, Harris is well worth an early to mid-second round selection in my eyes. He has the potential to become a high-level 6th or 7th man who, in spurts, checks in and provides some offensive firepower.