While things went great for the Denver Nuggets in their matchup with the Toronto Raptors, there was one sizable negative from Denver’s 106-103 win in Toronto.
“The one thing I feel awful about is Gary Harris,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Definitely keep Gary in our thoughts.”
Gary Harris, the Nuggets starting shooting guard, who had just returned from injury after missing two games with a sore left ankle, looks to be headed straight back onto the Nuggets injury report.
At the 3:33 mark of the first quarter, Harris reached for his groin area immediately after landing from an attempted layup opportunity. The play where Harris was injured is below. You can see in the second angle of the play that Harris immediately reaches for his groin area after landing.
He was fouled on the play, and proceeded to make one of his two free throw attempts after injuring himself, but just 30 seconds later, Harris was removed and did not return to the game. Shortly after, the Nuggets announced that he will be out for the rest of the game with what was described as a hip injury.
After the game, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone spoke to the media in Toronto and told them that Harris’ injury was actually a groin injury and not the hip issue that it was originally said to be. Regardless of the injury, Harris’ luck with health has not been good to begin the year and, according to Malone, it is bothering Harris quite a bit.
“He’s frustrated, just getting back from an injury, and to have that [and] not be able to come back in tonight. We’ll see how severe the injury is, and hopefully we can get him back really soon,” Malone explained in his postgame press conference.
According to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Harris will get an MRI to figure out the severity of his injury. It is not known how bad Harris’ injury is, but it is notable that shortly after the initial diagnosis, Harris was immediately considered out for the rest of the game. There must be enough worry about Harris’ injury from the Nuggets medical staff for them to decide quickly and promptly that he would not return to the game.
Now, with Harris likely sidelined for an undetermined amount of time, the question that looms is who will pick up the slack for Harris if he does indeed miss some time.
The most likely answer is Torrey Craig. Craig has been inserted into the starting lineup when Harris gets hurt on multiple occasions. Malone originally started Craig for the injured Harris at the end of the 2017-18 season when Harris missed 10 of Denver’s last 12 games. Most recently, Malone started Craig in place of Harris when he missed two games at the end of November. Malone trusts in Craig and Craig has repaid Malone’s trust with strong play as of late. The five-man lineup of Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Juancho Hernangomez, Torrey Craig, and Jamal Murray has played 39 minutes together and they have a whopping +21.8 net rating together.
The next-best option would be to start Malik Beasley in place of the injured Harris. Beasley has played very strong as of late and has earned his bump in playing time. He is knocking down 3-pointers with confidence, running the floor in transition, making quick and correct decisions with the ball in his hands, and has been defending with vigor and aggression. If Beasley gets the call to start for Harris, it will be because he has earned it with his play as of late. The five-man lineup of Jokic, Millsap, Hernangomez, Beasley, and Murray has played just 14 minutes together and they have a -8.6 net rating together.
The third and final option would be starting Monte Morris for Harris and sliding Murray over into the shooting guard slot. This decision is the least likely to happen because it would mean removing Morris from the bench unit which has performed so well this year. Still, Morris has played outstanding as of late and a switch into the starting lineup could be good for the starting five even if the bench unit does take a hit. In all likelihood, Malone will avoid this option in order to keep the bench unit strong and to avoid becoming less stout defensively. The five-man lineup of Jokic, Millsap, Hernangomez, Morris, and Murray has played just 8 minutes together and they have a horrific 76.2 offensive rating together, but they have not had enough time together to say for certain if they can play together or not.
Regardless of who fills in for Harris, it is going to hurt the Nuggets quite a bit to be without their second-best player. Harris is integral in everything the Nuggets do on both ends of the floor and there is no real way to make up for all of the positives he brings on a nightly basis.
“Gary is such a big part of what we’re trying to do,” Malone said after the game. “RBig loss.”