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Harry Giles: The Breath of Fresh Air The Toronto Raptors Could Use

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Don’t look now, but the Toronto Raptors could be in some deep s**t this offseason. Key rotation staples such as Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are a few of the marquee free agents in the sparse 2020 free agency class. Tack on the likes of Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to that list and the Raptors’ front office has some sleepless nights waiting upon them. If worse comes to worst and the franchise loses one of, if not, both Gasol and Ibaka to a greener pasture, Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and co. have some crucial phone calls to make. 

In this scenario, we’ll assume that the Toronto Raptors managed to lock down fan favourite Fred VanVleet to a four year, $80 million contract. Boucher decides to stay home in Canada, inking a one-year, $2.7 million deal. Ma fuzzy chef adores the city of Toronto too much and hangs up the phone on his good buddy Kevin Durant, agreeing to a one year, $18 million deal. Meanwhile, Gasol decides to still kick around and signs with the Golden State Warriors, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson takes his talents to a team like the Timberwolves. Oh and not to mention, Stanley “Philly Killer” Johnson opts into his $3.8 million player option. 

With that in mind, the Toronto Raptors have… *pulls out calculator* 

Ah, the team has around $128 million on the books, leaving them with very few options to fill the void left by the ageing party animal in Marc Gasol. Take a gander around the underwhelming 2020 free agency big men class and some names stand out more than others. There’s someone like Christian Wood, the prize gem of this pool, but he’ll be too expensive to obtain. Perhaps the likes of Tristan Thompson or Nerlens Noel could do the job, but let’s keep searching. Hey, Jakob Poeltl! A possible reuniting with the former #9 overall pick? It’s a cool concept to think about. 

Wait, what do we have here — a 22-year-old big man standing at 6’11” with a 7’3” wingspan who weighs in at 240 pounds?! He used to be the number one prospect in his high school class?! His team stupidly rejected his fourth-year option, leaving him to blossom in another environment? Somebody who’s projected to fit the Raptors cap sheet? Who could this diamond in the rough be???

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Harry Giles. 

As mentioned before, Harry Giles is a 22-year-old, 6’11” big man who is entering the 2020 free agency class as an unrestricted free agent. He was once a highly touted recruit coming out of the high school circuit (#1 in 2016), but a torn ACL he suffered in his senior year of high school put a halt to his rapid rise to stardom. Giles’ freshman year at Duke University was underwhelming and at the season’s end, he decided to forgo his college eligibility to enter the 2017 NBA Draft. On draft night, the Sacramento Kings swung for the fences and selected Harry Giles with the 20th overall pick. Since then, he’s been battling for minutes in the Kings’ rotation, familiarizing himself with the G-League developmental path.

In the 2019-2020 NBA season, Giles recorded 6.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game while shooting 58.0 TS% from the field. He only played in 46 matches, averaging 14.5 minutes of playing time per night. Though these numbers may look displeasing, Giles’ talents are apparent once you turn on the tape and watch the young man play. Don’t base your judgment on these base statistics that carry zero context. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the higher-ups of the NBA to delay the season, the Sacramento Kings announced that they were declining Harry Giles’s fourth-year option as a way of “teaching” the naive player a lesson for arriving at the 2019 pre-season camp out of shape. This leads us to today where Giles has quietly made a name for himself as an under the radar free agent. 

So, who is Harry Giles as a basketball player?

On offence, Giles is a fantastic high post initiator who serves as a dribble handoff hub, who has shown potential shooting scalability. On defence, Harry Giles’ agility and active hands create a valuable team defender, able to keep up with guards/forwards thanks to hip fluidity. 

Breaking down his game even further, Harry Giles primarily operates at the high post, occasionally popping out to the three-point arc to serve as a dribble handoff beacon. He is a fantastic passer who boasts vision akin to the league’s best playmakers, manipulating the defence with multiple eye/ball fakes and sees passing windows as they open up. Harry Giles is fearless when it comes to his passes and he has a natural feel for dishing out dimes for his teammates. 

His passing ability is arguably his most valuable skill as the passes he makes are worthy of the satisfaction of the great Arvydas Sabonis. Whether it’s at the elbow or on the short roll, Harry Giles has an innate ability to read the floor, visualize passing windows and make the right pass to maximize scoring opportunities. The passes Giles’ throws often have the right amount of velocity behind them, ending up on the mittens of his teammates at the perfect moment.

In this clip, Harry Giles does a fantastic job using his body to psych-out the defence with multiple ball fakes. His patience pays off as he dumps off the ball to Nemanja Bjelica who scores two easy points.
Here, Harry Giles pushes a perfectly timed pass through a tight window for a cutting Bogdan Bogdanovic.
This is just beautiful manipulation by Harry Giles who recognizes a better scoring opportunity in the blink of an eye.

Compared to the 126 players which are classified as “bigs” by BBall-Index, Giles ranks in the 91st percentile (+0.5) in playmaking talent (BBall-Index glossary). To go along with this, he is touted to be in the 96th percentile in passing creation quality and in the 83rd percentile (+0.56) in passing efficiency. 

In a landscape dictated by the ability to space the floor, Harry Giles isn’t a shoo-in for every NBA offence due to his lack of perimeter shot attempts. In fact, Giles has attempted eight three-point shots in his two years in the NBA. It’s not the fact that he can’t shoot, it’s his unwillingness to shoot that has caused this issue.

From my amateur perspective, Harry Giles doesn’t completely trust his shot, especially when the opposing big man decides to sink back into the paint. There are times where he spots up for the catch and shoot jumper or decides to punish the dropping big. More often than not, he overthinks his situation, leading to hesitation. Thankfully, there are bits of statistics that provide hope for the possibility of Giles evolving into a good enough shooter that forces the defence to close out on him. 

His free throw percentages aren’t the worst, clocking in at 77.6 FT% on 1.1 attempts per game. Giles’ mid-range game is what truly shows sparks of floor spacing attributes. According to NBA.com, Harry Giles ranks second among all centres (1.0+ attempts per game) in mid-range shot efficiency, shooting 48.4 FG% on 1.4 attempts every night. 

Giles’ shooting stroke is clean as his feet are always set, hands prepared to take the ball up in one fluid motion. The release is smooth, barely lifting off the floor as the ball is launched with a noticeable ark and great rotation. He does slightly lean back in the air while in shooting motion which may hamper his accuracy as he’ll need to exert more power to get the basketball inside the basket. Overall, there aren’t any noticeable red flags in his shooting mechanics. It’s just a matter of fact that Harry Giles needs to spend lots of time honing his jump shot, creating consistency which leads to more confidence in his ability to make it rain outside of the paint. 

As the chart by NBAShotCharts.com details, Harry Giles is not a perimeter threat by any means, but he shows signs of life within the mid-range area.

As a 22-year-old big man, Harry Giles is still a work in progress in terms of acting as the pick and roll screen setter. He possesses a wiry, 6’11” frame and lacks the strength required to act as a brick wall. This limits him from developing into a top-tier screen setter, but he does understand how to properly set screens and how to adjust to rabid defenders attempting to get over the screen. For now, Giles is not a pick and pop specialist, and instead acts as a noteworthy lob threat thanks to his 7’3” wingspan. Again, physical limitations have hindered him as the major injuries he’s suffered in the past have zapped him of his once elite athleticism. More will be spoken about this topic, but Harry Giles simply does not have a lot of lift to him, and his burst of athleticism comes and goes. Luckily for him, Giles is a fantastic short roll passer, dishing out picture-perfect assists when the defence collapses on him. 

If you asked Harry Giles to try and break down his defender, creating scoring avenues off the dribble, it would not end well. Giles’ handles are — how does one say it kindly — a work in progress. It’s very similar to Pascal Siakam’s dribbling in the sense where it’s very loose and has a greater chance to be picked off. Just think of Siakam forcing his way to the bucket with a multitude of dribble packages in the 2020 playoffs, make it a bit more uncontrolled and you’ve got Giles as a ball handler. 

To be fair, he has shown off these Bam Adebayo-Esque plays where he fakes a dribble handoff and drives to the rim with a secured handle. There’s the odd moment or two where he seems like a solid dribbler who can somewhat create scoring advantages for himself. Are these moments of foreshadowing of the future where Giles has developed a respectable handle? Or, are these just flashes and nothing more? I don’t think he’ll ever expand his offensive repertoire to be able to break down defenders with his dribble, but a team shouldn’t expect him to carry that much offensive responsibility in the first place. 

I didn’t need to put this in but come on, this is fun!
An example of the aforementioned Bam-Esque fake dribble handoffs where McGee bites and Giles sails in for the open layup.

As mentioned two paragraphs ago, Harry Giles’ burst and explosiveness is something that is brought out in certain situations. His run-in with the infamous injury reaper has taken a toll on his body as it cannot jump out of the arena as it once did. There will be moments where he does display top-notch athleticism, a play which makes you go, “oh my gosh, what are they feeding those kids down in Sacramento?” Giles can no longer take one step and rise above the defence. Instead, he requires time and space to spring off of two feet which may close his scoring window. 

Flipping to the other side of the court, Harry Giles can be classified as a positive team defender. He’s not someone who will act as the anchor of an elite defence, ascending into the upper echelon tiers of rim-protecting bigs. Instead, Giles is a mobile 6’11 big, who’s 7’3” wingspan allows him to disrupt those who try to shoot over him. His hip mobility and foot speed allow him to stick step by step with the man he is defending. Not to mention, he is always in a defensive stance with his arms out ready to snatch passes in the passing lane or to pester indecisive ball handlers. 

When it comes to pick and roll coverage, Harry Giles’ mobility and active hands prove to be an effective bucket repellent. While he may not be the most explosive leaper on the court, Giles is still an admirably quick player when he is forced to shuffle his feet. He understands how to properly defend against a pick and roll action, setting himself in a low stance with his go-go gadget arms out, ready to deter a possible shot/pass attempt. At times, he’s shown an impressive ability to blitz the pick and roll handler as well as stunting, causing the offensive initiator to reverse to the other direction. Giles’ understands how to properly distance himself between the ball handler and the roll man, staying close enough to cause discomfort in their opportunity to score.

In this play, Harry Giles maintains perfect placement between the ball handler (Chris Paul) and the roll man (Steven Adams), leading to a heavy contest on an Adams’ layup attempt.
Here, Giles shows on the pick and roll, immediately blitzing Tyus Jones and causes a turnover for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Similar to the clip against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harry Giles stays in front of both Tyus Jones and Jonas Valanciunas perfectly. When Jones dumps the ball off to Kyle Anderson, Giles is there to block the shot.

When Harry Giles is beaten over the top, he isn’t left in the dust where he is unable to catch up to the play. His hip fluidity paired with his quickness allows him to close the gap between him and the man who broke him down. Giles is more than capable of beating players to the spot, resulting in contested shot attempts. 

On top of this, Harry Giles isn’t a shy figure on the court. He is always active, echoing assistance to his defensive comrades. Giles points out any sort of scoring threat, glueing together a cohesive defensive unit. 

In the seemingly deserted passing lanes, Harry Giles is akin to a camouflaged cheetah, waiting patiently  to pounce on an unsuspecting gazelle. Compared to the 126 players which are classified as “bigs” by BBall-Index, he ranks in the 94th percentile (+0.47) in Real Adjusted TOV Rate. Not to mention, Harry Giles is among the 87th percentile in passing lane defence (3.8) and in the 83rd percentile in deflections/75 possessions (2.8).

He is an awesome off-ball defender, able to make smart reads and step up before the offence has a chance to put the ball in the basket. Giles’ on his toes approach on defence has pushed him to attack at any opportunity where he sees that the basketball can be picked off for a pick-six to the house. 

Harry Giles possesses the tools that are required to transform into a ++ defensive stalwart, but certain limitations have veered him off this course. For instance, he lacks the strength required to protect the paint. It doesn’t take too much effort to bully Giles in the post as he can’t defend against a post up to save his life. Opposing big men could have themselves a career night in the post if they ever face Giles. He needs to live in the gym while the offseason still lasts, strengthening his core muscles so he can stymie paint penetrators. Giles ranks in the 65th percentile among all bigs in rim deterrence (-0.59), per BBall-Index. Factor this in with his inconsistent burst of vertical explosion, it’s easy to understand how he is easily taken advantage of down in the paint. 

Harry Giles completely gets RAILED by Kawhi Leonard on this shot attempt and concedes two free throw attempts to the 2019 Finals MVP.
It’s clear as day that Harry Giles needs to improve his strength to evolve into a respectable paint protector. He can’t afford to get overpowered by a player like Montrezl Harrell in the play shown above.

Another defensive inefficiency Harry Giles suffers from is his discipline. Now, he is only 22 years old, but he needs to build good habits that will last for the rest of his career. In this past season, Giles averaged 2.6 personal fouls per match and in the year before that, he recorded the same 2.6 fouls per game statistic. Part of it can be attributed to his lack of strength as he tends to lean over while he is bothering a shot attempt inside the paint. Giles has shown improvements in this area, beginning to stay on the floor on pump/head fakes and playing the ball handler straight up. Still, he needs to turn the flashes of maturity into a nightly occurrence. 

Speaking of consistency, Harry Giles carries a tendency to space out and forget everything that is around him. Now, I must admit that I do this as well, but it’s way more costly for Giles to allow the opposing offence to play 5 on 4 for a couple of moments. He tends to lose sight of his man, allowing him to attain rebounding position and the overwhelming chance to put back a missed shot attempt. Giles has a habit of watching the ball, completely neglecting the back door cutter who is wide open for two easy points. It’s not to say he’s not a very bright player when it’s the quite opposite of that, he is an intelligent basketball player. Harry Giles needs to figure out how to have his head in the game throughout 100% of his possessions on the floor. 

To cap this player summary off, Harry Giles’ durability/conditioning is a slight concern. As mentioned before, Giles has had his run-ins with the injury bug in the past and it has physically taken a toll on him. In his experiences in the NBA, Giles has never played big minutes consistently and I question how long he could last on the floor, especially in a playoff series. For a guy who is acclaimed for his high motor, there were times where he’d casually jog up the floor despite the offence leading the way on a man to man advantage. 

It’s imperative to note that Harry Giles experienced his first taste of starting minutes in the NBA this past season. Out of the 46 matches he contributed in, Giles was named a starter 17 times and in the previous season (2018-2019), he did not receive a single opportunity to start in an NBA game. In the games in which he did start this past year, Harry Giles averaged 8.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.4 blocks per game while shooting 60.8 FG% and 72.7% at the free-throw line.

All in all, Harry Giles isn’t perfect, but who is? The good outweighs the bad as he possesses offensive/defensive upside which can’t be ignored. Giles will act as a playmaking big who carves out a role on the defensive end of the floor as an admirable team defender.

Keep in mind, Harry Giles is only 22 years old. That’s younger than Dewan Hernandez, the big man the Toronto Raptors selected in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. 

Now, to address the elephant in the room: how much will Harry Giles cost for the Toronto Raptors?

In regards to that question, there will certainly be a market for a 22-year-old playmaking, mobile big who has the upside to turn into a valuable playoff rotation asset. Now, I’m not Adrian Wojnarowski or Shams Charania, so I do not have sources at bay ready to give me an exact $$$ amount. Instead, I can only confidently say that Giles will likely receive short term offers that are around $4-6 million per year deals.

This can certainly fit in with the Toronto Raptors’ tight budget, and they should take the flier on Harry Giles. With how the team is currently shaped and how everyone around the Raptors is preparing for war, this will be a competitive year for the franchise that will emphasize the development of rising stars such as O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and someone like Paul Watson Jr. With the developmental and medical staff of the organization, Giles will be treated like a king (haha get it?) and he’ll be under a developmental system that boasts a renowned track record. 

If the signing pays off, fantastic! The Toronto Raptors have done it again by snatching a gem that was overlooked by most franchises. If not, oh well. It was a swing worth taking and it doesn’t put a massive dent in the team’s future aspirations.

The addition of assistant coach Chris Finch provides additional intrigue for the addition of Harry Giles as he empowers big men to initiate the offence. A fantastic article by Caitlin Cooper titled, How Chris Finch could invert the Pacers’ offense with continuous spacing, details this exact topic, explaining how his stints in New Orleans and Denver have improved a big man’s offensive capabilities. With Harry Giles’ skillset, Finch and the rest of the coaching staff could catapult Giles in the 2021 Most Improved Player of the Year discussion.

In what many fans have called a “bridge year”, Harry Giles is a low-cost pickup that could yield marvellous production. 


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3 thoughts on “Harry Giles: The Breath of Fresh Air The Toronto Raptors Could Use”

  1. Completely agree with this.. we should take a gamble on Harry Giles….
    In fact I just googled to see if there were any links with the Raptors but only your opinion article comes up..

    Very good read though I must say.
    This guy has the tools .. we can honestly groom him and then he will stay

    • Thank you for the kind words, I appreciate it! And yes, I agree with you there, it’s a low-risk swing that could pay dividends in the future. The clock is ticking, but Giles is still on the free agent market as of now and it’ll be interesting to see where he signs.


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