The Nuggets captured the no. two seed in 2018-19 season despite one of their core players missing 30 games.
If you were told that the Nuggets would miss a 17.5 PPG, 3 RPG, 3 APG player with efficient shooting ability for one-third of the season, would you think that they were still the second-best regular-season team in the West?
That’s exactly what happened, and if Harris can return to healthy, he will help take this team over the top.
Gary Harris is such a pivotal piece of the Nuggets puzzle, they need him to return to his 2017-18 form where the aforementioned stat line was a reality. Harris is criminally underrated as he received All-NBA first-team defensive votes, Defensive Player of the Year votes, and was the best defender, off-ball scorer and three-point shooter on the roster a season ago. Last year injuries plagued his season and he wasn’t ever put in a position to get into a rhythm, build chemistry, or develop with the team.
Gary Harris started the first 19 games of the year, only to play 13 of the next 40 games, to then finished out the final 25 games of the season and played every playoff game. At the start of the season, Harris looked like his old self with multiple 20 point games, scoring at a high percentage and contributing in every facet of the game. After his injury, during the middle of the regular season, it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent and his numbers reflected the same.
He ended 2018-19 with 25 straight games playing on a minutes restriction and seemed like the team was trying to work him back into the rotation.
Then, the playoffs started, and Gary Harris came back from the dead. He averaged 37 minutes per game, 14 points, four rebounds, 2.3 assists, one steal and one block per game while shooting 35 percent from three and 52 percent from the field. The first two games of the playoffs Harris scored 20 and 23 points respectively, his first 20+ point games since Nov. 30 (6 months).
The Nuggets are a dark horse contender next season (2019-20) and for very good reason, Nikola Jokic is an All-NBA talent, Jamal Murray is primed to be a top 10 Point Guard in the league, Michael Porter Jr. is returning to basketball and carries a lot of hype, but one of the most important stories for next season will be Gary Harris’ return to dominance.
The Nuggets 2019-20 season, which make no mistake, is a ‘Championship or bust’ year, hinges completely on Jokic remaining the most dominant big in the league, the internal development of Jamal Murray, the splash entrance and health of MPJ, and Gary Harris’s ability to score without the ball and defend the oppositions best scorer. Gary is locked up to be a Nugget through the 2022-23 season and is currently the third highest paid Nugget for the 2019-20 season behind Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic.
The Nuggets need top-three player production from their young guard, and I for one, see him producing a magical season this coming year.