Harry Giles is one of the biggest what if’s of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Giles was touted as one of the best incoming freshmen of the 2016-17 class but after four separate ligament tears, between both knees over a three-year span, his overall upside is not what it once was. He did himself no favors by putting up a lackluster freshman campaign at Duke either, which has left his draft stock highly volatile.
Everything about Giles as a prospect revolves around how those numerous knee procedures will impact his athleticism. So before getting into his strengths and weaknesses, it is important to understand the severity of the knee injuries Giles has sustained.
It’s not that there are questions about Giles’ knees. Those questions have evolved into facts and whichever team takes a chance on him will have to live with the reality that both of his knees are not only shaky but downright damaged.
The overarching issue when discussing Giles’ long-term health is the fact that he not only that tore the ACL, MCL, and meniscus all at once in his left knee in 2013, but that he also tore the ACL in his right knee in 2015 and then underwent an arthroscopic knee procedure on his left knee in 2016 as well. He has a worse history with his knees than Danilo Gallinari and is still a teenager.
The plethora of knee injuries that Giles has dealt with at the ripe age of 19-years-old has not only sapped his athletic gifts but also the longevity of his career. Giles will either have to completely re-tool his game to a more methodical and less powerful style or fade from basketball as quickly as his athleticism will.
The one undeniable tool that Giles has in his tool chest is the ability to be an elite rebounder on either offense or defense at the NBA level. His frame, motor, and quickness make him very difficult to keep off of the glass.
Giles’ physical frame is a large factor to his ability to feast on the boards. With a 9-1 standing reach matched with a 7-3 wingspan, he has the length to get to rebounds whenever motivated to do so. Add in his quick-twitch athleticism and you have the right physical tools to gobble up rebounds.
What separates Giles from other physically gifted rebounders is his competitiveness when fighting for boards. He does not only play with a motor but with a competitive fire that is tough to match. He fights for position endlessly and it ends with him securing the rebound more often than not as evident by his 13.3 rebounds per 40 minutes during his freshman season.
Giles is able to put the exclamation point on a finished defensive possession with a rebound but is also able to push the ball up the court himself. The ability to end possessions is already highly underrated at the professional level but being able to also push the pace and run off of missed shots usually allows mismatches to be exposed at the other end of the floor and an overall efficiency boost on offense.
When Giles uses his tenacity going for offensive rebounds is when he can significantly help on that side of the floor. His combo of a high-energy motor, quick-twitch athleticism and length give him the ability to be a terror on the offensive glass.
In just 300 total minutes played in his one season at Duke, Giles was able to grab 100 total rebounds with 41 of those coming on the offensive end of the floor. Before his multiple knee injuries Giles used to easily sky for monstrous put-back dunks but now he relies on his nose for the ball and infectious energy to be effective.
As Giles’ knees started to degrade, so has his athleticism but his instincts have remained elite on the glass. He has the tools to still be able to be highly effective as a rebounder even if it will take some tweaks to his game.
There are few players that have the size of Giles and can move as fluidly in transition as him in the draft. Giles runs like a gazelle and has the lethal combination of elite defensive rebounding, ability to push the ball himself, and length to slam home lobs with his incredibly soft hands.
When discussing frontcourt players who excel in transition in this draft class, Giles has to be included. Once Giles secures a rebound he has the ability to push the ball up the court himself, pass the ball forward to guards leaking out, or differ to a guard and run to the rim to make himself available for lobs or a drop-pass. Giles does force passes far too often but he has shown creativity and vision with the ball in his hands in transition as a playmaker as well.
Giles’ ability in transition is one of the few skills that the 19-year-old excels at and it allows him to be a productive player on offense. It is a skill that will immediately elevate whichever team that selects him and is a direct reason why Giles fits the mold of a new-age center that is able to run the court like a wing but also has the size to alter shots at the rim or rebound the ball.
Giles will always have to worry about his knees but scout shouldn’t be concerned with his body. Giles has been blessed with fantastic length, ideal height, and a body type that is perfect to pack muscle onto.
Giles is just 211 pounds but his wide hips and broad shoulders will allow significantly more muscle to be added over time. If he can get closer to being 240 pounds or so he will have the strength to play with power-oriented big men and begin to bring his offensive game down into the low block more often.
The Duke product’s height and length are also ideal for his role. Being 6-11 allows him to play either power forward or center, depending on the lineup, and not skip a beat. His 7-3 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach also make it extremely difficult to shoot over him, which gives Giles merit as a shot blocker, and the quickness to eventually defend wing players on the perimeter if needed.
If nothing else, Giles has the body to be a versatile frontcourt player for this new position-less style of basketball. He fits the mold of a small-ball center that can run the court fluidly without giving a rebounding advantage to the opposition in the way that Clint Capela and Nerlens Noel do for their respective teams.
Teams that are thinking about selecting Giles need to realize that his career may not be as long as hoped. Major injuries in both knees before getting out of his teenage years has the potential to drastically limit the total number of minutes Giles will be able to play throughout his career.
This is a big reason why Giles has such an unpredictable draft stock. Teams that take a leap and pick him don’t know if he’ll be able to play five or 15 years in the next level. That volatility makes Giles a tough fit in a long-term role and brings up questions if he can be depended on in the later parts of the grueling 82-game NBA season.
Giles’ long-term outlook will be predicated on his efforts to evolve as a player. If he is unwilling to expand his game beyond what it is currently, then Giles’ stay at the NBA-level may be briefer than originally imagined. If he is willing to adapt and grow as a player he may be able to be a difference maker at the NBA-level.
Giles will have to learn to re-tool his style of play and adapt if he hopes to have a long playing career. As of right now, Giles still depends largely on his body and athletic gifts but as those skills continue to evaporate, he’ll need to learn how to play a more fundamental style.
On offense, Giles will not be able to sky for lobs and dunk over opponents forever. He will need to develop his jumper, advance his footwork in the post, and continue to establish his passing ability as a cornerstone of his offensive skill-set. If Giles continues to rely on his athletic ability on offense he will quickly become a negative without much room for improvement.
Much of the same is true on defense. As of right now, Giles is able to contain smaller and quicker players on the perimeter thanks to his god-given quickness and not his fundamental footwork. If Giles is to continue to be a force defensively he will need to learn to refine not just his footwork and positioning but his overall mindset.
When players like Giles fall back on their athletic ability for the majority of their career they develop bad habits. Giles, while instinctually gifted, has the issue of leaving his man to sky for a block or to jump a passing lane, essentially leaving his teammates to play defense with just four players. As Giles’ athleticism begins to fail him those mistakes will look exponentially worse.
With Giles’ knee injuries being so traumatic, learning to play fundamentally sound is paramount for him to have a good career at the NBA level. Without that change in his game, he will quickly fall out off the map.
Limited Offensive Skill
Giles is extremely raw on the offensive end. For the majority of his time playing basketball he was able to produce at a high level based purely on his athletic gifts and large stature but now that opponents’ size and athleticism has caught up with him, suddenly, Giles’ offensive game has been exposed as a weakness.
It’s not that Giles does not have tools at the offensive end.
Giles can drive in a straight line, hit push shots, and finish at the rim.
He’s able to face up in the post and make jump shots over defenders or back players down and use his combination of quickness and strength to score down low.
Giles even projects as a decent shooter from mid-range, in time.
The issue is not that he does not have an offensive game. The issue is that it is maddeningly inconsistent.
There is something to be said for the fact that his role on Duke was as discombobulated as possible. He not only missed all of the preseason and then some, but never found a productive role on the Blue Devils roster as his minutes fluctuated for the 26 games he did play in. That unpredictability could have easily thrown Giles off rhythm and effectively limit his impact but it seemed to go past that.
When watching Giles play it always feels as if he is forcing himself upon the offense. The best comparison is the way Jusuf Nurkic played in Denver, except Giles is not nearly as strong. It is a lack of focus and understanding of the game that makes Giles somewhat of a black hole on offense.
He forces bad shots far too regularly, is extremely sped up in the post, and thinks he is a much better passer than he actually is at this juncture in his development.
Until Giles finds a way to slow down offensively, work on his footwork in the post, and improve his jump shot, he will struggle to produce consistently on that end of the floor. His athletic ability won’t last forever and with so much of his offensive skill-set predicated on his quick-twitch movements and leaping ability Giles needs to develop the finer aspects of his game and learn to score with more finesse.
Giles could absolutely find a way to become a highly productive player at the professional level, but that shouldn’t be in Denver.
With his medical history and no clear role for him on the Nuggets, it would be hard to justify selecting Giles on upside alone with such a deep talent pool in the 2017 class.
Offensively, Giles does not fit alongside Nikola Jokic or within the hyper-active and movement-heavy offense that the Nuggets run. Giles offensive skill-set is very similar to Nurkic’s and every Nuggets fan remembers how that situation played out.
There is an argument that could be made that Giles’ has the defensive skill-set to potentially make up for Jokic’s short-comings but with his injury history, it’s hard to imagine Giles maintaining a career as a high-level shot blocker.
Overall, Denver would be best off passing on Giles. Taking into consideration the amount of talent there is in the 2017 draft, it would be a bad decision to take a chance on a teenager that does not fit the roster and has had three separate knee surgeries in three years.
Expect Denver to look elsewhere in the first round.