Vlade Divac took a gamble with the 20th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft when he selected Harry Giles out of Duke University. Two years later, the Sacramento Kings are cautiously optimistic that they have another piece to the puzzle in the talented 21-year-old.
After multiple knee injuries, the Kings have taken a patient approach to bring along the 6-foot-10 big man. They even hedged their bets this offseason when they brought not just one, but two centers to compete for minutes with Giles.
While this is Giles’ second NBA season, it’s actually the third year of his rookie-scale deal after redshirting his first year. With just 58 games under his belt, this is an important season for him to prove he is another piece to the Kings’ long term future.
Luke Walton has plenty of pieces to work with on the frontline, but Giles' skill set is unique. Whether he can stay healthy and carve out a niche for himself is still unknown, but he has plenty of potential and an infectious personality.
Giles has shown flashes of being a complete NBA player. He’s a physically gifted athlete with great court vision and tremendous size for either the power forward or center position. He needs to add weight and get stronger, but he has a frame that can easily carry another 10-15 pounds without hampering his mobility.
His raw numbers don’t jump off the page. He managed to average 7.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 14.1 minutes per game in Dave Joerger’s rotation. He struggled early in the season but found his rhythm after two stops in the G League with the Stockton Kings.
Although he played limited minutes, there were times when the Kings ran their offense through the rookie. He has an advanced feel for the high post and is a tremendous passer. Despite his inexperience, he managed a 15.2 percent assist percentage, which ranked fourth out of the rotational players on the Kings.
Giles struggled with his shot early but was able to bring his field goal percentage to a respectable 50.3 percent by the end of the season. He shot 68.6 percent at the rim and 41.6 percent from 3-10 feet. He has a variety of post moves and showed an ability to take his defender off the dribble.
There were times when Giles was overmatched against bigger players and he was lost in defensive rotations early in the season, but he settled in and held his opponents to negative field goal percentages inside of 10 feet and outside of 15 feet. He’s a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball, but he’s a high-motor player that projects as an above-average NBA defender.
Per 36 minutes, Giles averaged 9.7 rebounds per game and he was only slightly behind Willie Cauley-Stein and Marvin Bagley in his offensive and defensive rebounding percentages.
Injury concerns are what made Giles topple out of the top five in the 2017 NBA Draft and they will continue to be a topic of conversation until he proves that he can play an 82-game schedule. He stayed reasonably healthy throughout the first three-quarters of the season, although he played limited minutes.
Eventually, Giles missed the final 11 games of the season due to a thigh bruise and spent the early part of the offseason rehabbing. There were nights when he looked spry and other games when his legs looked heavy. It’s part of the process of recovery for a young man that played a total of 300 minutes of basketball over the three seasons coming into last year.
On the offensive side of the ball, Giles is a major cog due to his passing ability, but his limited shooting range hurts the spacing on the floor, especially when he was paired with players like Bagley or Kosta Koufos.
Giles attempted just six 3-pointers on the season, missing all six, and he took 36 total shots from 16 feet out to the 3-point line. The modern NBA big needs to be able to shoot from behind the arc, especially in a wide-open offense like Sacramento’s.
Early in the season, Giles struggled with both turnovers and personal fouls. He cleaned up a lot of the issues as he got more comfortable on the court. His ability to pass is elite, but there are times where he presses and gets too loose with the ball.
Giles is a gritty defensive player that doesn’t back down from a challenge. On many occasions it was a plus for Sacramento -- but he averaged 6.6 personal fouls per 36 minutes -- which cost him minutes. He has to be smarter with fouls and use his feet to play defense instead of his hands.
Path to Improvement
Giles is a raw but moldable piece of NBA clay. He has incredible natural ability and a high basketball IQ.
In order to develop and reach his potential, he needs to work on his range as a shooter and continue to build strength and endurance for a long 82 season. He has a nice jumper from 18 feet, but if he can hit the corner three or step out and drill an occasional triple from the elbow, it will help to diversify his game and space the floor for others.
His body continues to be a work in progress, but this is his third NBA summer. Hopefully, he’s spent plenty of time with the Kings’ training staff refining his body and getting stronger.
He also needs to get comfortable on the court, which will help him reduce fouls and turnovers, as well as improve as a defender. That will come with time and opportunity.
There were times when Giles showed flashes both as a scorer and rebounder. The Kings need more consistency in these areas when he gets time. He has the motor and skills set to post double-doubles on a nightly basis, but he failed to register a single 10-rebound game in his rookie campaign.
Divac made the safe play when he brought in both Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes to compete for minutes at the five. Giles is a wild card but comes with a long injury history. Dedmon has missed 38 games due to injury over the last two seasons as well and Holmes has never played more than 70 games in a season. All three players are very different and it's up to Walton to figure out how to use them.
Dedmon will start the season as the starter, but the early plan is likely for Giles to split minutes with him. If Giles can reach the 24-minute mark, he can average 10 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game and perhaps more.
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If he continues to struggle with foul issues or has a physical setback, he’ll open the door for Holmes to take his minutes.
Giles needs to build off his late-season success and show an ability to stretch the floor. With a strong start to the season, he could steal a bigger chunk of minutes at the five and establish himself as the long term answer at the position for Sacramento.