Pistons NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Michigan State’s Gary Harris


Mar 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Gary Harris (14) drives to the basket against Virginia Cavaliers guard Malcolm Brogdon (15) during the second half in the semifinals of the east regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Today we start our series of breaking down potential targets for the Detroit Pistons in the upcoming 2014 draft. These profiles will vary from possibilities with the potential first round pick, to steals that fall to them with what should be an early second round selection.

We start our series with sophomore Michigan State guard Gary Harris. Despite being projected to be a top 10 pick after his freshman season, Harris returned to Michigan State in an attempt to win a championship and improve his game. While the Spartans fell short, Harris improved many aspects of his game.  He brings a toughness to the table on both sides of the floor and though he isn’t the most athletic player on the Pistons draft board, he might be the most prepared for the next level.

Most importantly, he is a player that fits into the Pistons fold right away.

Player Profile

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 210

Wingspan: 6’7″

School: Michigan State

Hometown: Fishers, Indiana

Points Per Game: 16.7 | Field Goal Percentage: 43% | Free Throw Percentage: 81% | Three Point Percentage: 35%

Rebounds Per Game: 4.0 | Assists Per Game: 2.7 | Steals Per Game: 1.8


There is a reason that multiple NBA teams and tons of top recruits are targeting Tom Izzo as their next head coach. For Harris, it’s been Izzo that has helped him showcase his top strength. The last two years, the Indiana Mr. Basketball has played different roles for Michigan State.

After being asked to be a scorer as a freshman, Harris came back to improve his game across the board. He upped his numbers drastically on the boards and became a better passer off those caroms up the floor. Harris more than doubled his assist total per game as well.

What makes him so special though is his shooting touch, defensive prowess and ability to rip through screens on both sides of the floor. His intangibles and instincts on the court are what put him ahead of many other shooting guards in the upcoming draft.

One thing you need to be able to do when playing in the Michigan State system is to be able to read screens and rip through them. Harris generates a lot of his production off screens. Whether it is digging through it to grab a steal in the lane or following it through for an open jumper. He is a battler and doesn’t get lost on the floor very often.

It’s part of why he is so good offensively. His shot is fluid and despite a lean toward the bucket, his quick release gets him great looks off curls and in the corner. One of the things that separates his shot from others is the simply ability to shoot through traffic. Whether it’s a hand in his face or a defender closing on him, Harris doesn’t get flustered.

On defense, he gets to the ball and closes in quickly on shooters. Just because he isn’t super athletic doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the best moving players in this draft. He’s quick enough to guard most Eastern Conference point guards. The way he attacks the ball is just how you coach it. He has a great frame that is able to get into solid defensive position. He is also able to make plays in passing lanes.

You can sense that Gary Harris has the potential to be a prime time player.


On offense, Harris has really improved getting to the rack. He has found the angles to get past slower defenders and is getting better at using his ball handling to make a move. There is still plenty of room for improvement though.

Part of the problem is that the college game is begging for guards to settle for mid-range two point jumpers. Harris is more than just guilty by association. Because he has such a smooth stroke, he sometimes falls into taking shots that could be passed up for better looks or taken to the glass for an easy two. In transition, it’s no problem. But in set plays, Harris is still learning to select the best option.

At the next level, he is going to be asked to handle the ball at least to mid-court. The Spartans had so much issue with this in the NCAA tournament that they had to give the ball to forward Branden Dawson to break the press and move the ball up the floor. If Harris can improve his handle of the basketball he could become a true full court weapon. Part of improving his ability to cut to the glass will depend on getting better with handling the basketball.

Draft Express Scouting Video

Fitting the Pistons Glove

Plain and simple the Pistons need a pure shooter. They finished second to last in the league in three point shooting and true shooting percentage. Harris doesn’t address the issue of players taking shots that shouldn’t, but he does give the team an actual shooting weapon to spread the floor. The issue of finding true shooters could be solved simply by drafting a player like Harris. Especially if we see the improvement in shooting expected from KCP and Kyle Singler.

Experts compare the former Spartan to O.J. Mayo, but defensively I think he’s at another level. If he can blossom into the talent scouts see on the court, Harris could eventually have a similar impact offensively as Bradley Beal has this year for the Wizards.  He could also mold himself into the best defensive stopper on the Pistons roster.

Harris is a hard worker and brings a winning attitude to the floor. He has been projected to be taken anywhere from 6th to 15th overall.