Gary Harris mirrors All-Star Bradley Beal in fourth year, history hints at fifth-year leap

Nov 4, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) passes the ball from the ground in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Harris is quickly developing into one of the premier shooting guards in the NBA. Just four years into his professional career, he is already putting up All-Star caliber numbers. Chris Marlowe, play-by-play commentator for the Denver Nuggets, who he sees almost every day in practice and in games, spoke highly of the Michigan State product.

“I was looking at Gary Harris today. They had the All-Star selections out, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Why couldn’t Gary Harris be as good as [Washington’s] Bradley Beal?’” Marlowe asked.

Marlowe may be on to something. In fact, Harris’s fourth-year numbers are eerily similar to Bradley Beal’s fourth-year numbers.

“He’s improved to 17 [points per game], three assists, three rebounds, 50% from the field, near 40% from three, and that’s what Beal did,” said Marlowe. “Then the next year after that, Beal went to 23 points per game. I could see Gary Harris doing that.”

Harris and Beal’s fourth years are both impressive, but Harris has the edge in almost every category. Their points per game are almost identical, and Beal grabs roughly one more rebound per contest, but Harris tops Beal in nearly every other facet of the game. Here’s a chart of their fourth season statistics to put it into perspective:

Player BRADLEY BEAL (2015-16) GARY HARRIS (2017-18)
Minutes per game (MPG) 31.1 35.0
Points per game (PPG) 17.4 17.4
Field goal percentage (FG%) 44.9% 48.5%
Three-point field goal percentage (3P%) 38.7% 39.0%
Rebounds per game (RPG) 3.4 2.8
Assists per game (APG) 2.9 3.2
Blocks per game (BPG) 0.2 0.3
Steals per game (SPG) 1.0 1.9
Free throw percentage (FT%) 76.7% 83.8%
Turnovers per game (TOPG) 2.0 1.9
Plus/minus (+/-) -24 +154

 

The fourth-year to fifth-year increase in production and efficiency happens often in the NBA. Beal’s most notable fifth-year statistics include 23 points per game, 40% three-point field goal percentage, almost four assists a game, and a plus/minus of +332. If Beal’s fifth-year surges are any indication for elite shooting guards in today’s league, then Harris’s fifth year already looks incredibly promising.

There have been fourth-to-fifth year boosts in player’s production from elite players in every generation of the NBA. In the late 1980’s, Clyde Drexler shifted into another gear in his fifth year. He averaged 21.7 points per game his fourth year and climbed to 27 points per game in his fifth. The turn of the century saw Kobe Bryant increase his production after winning his first NBA championship in 2000. He jumped from 22.5 points per game to 29 points per game. Finally, this season has seen Victor Oladipo improve tremendously in his fifth season. In 2016, he averaged 15.9 points per game and is now averaging 24.1 points per game this season.

The future shines bright for Harris as he’s leading the Denver Nuggets in points and steals per game. He’s started in every game he’s played in, and the Nuggets are projected to make the playoffs. Look for Harris to make a statement for the rest of this season and into 2019.

 

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