Last June, Harry Giles was coming off a season in which he averaged just 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game for a Duke team that underachieved for most of the campaign.
Not long after being regarded as the top prospect in his class, Giles was relegated to 11.5 minutes per contest. He was still the No. 18 prospect on my draft board.
At this point, Giles’ story is well known. He tore his ACL in both knees, as well as his MCL in his left knee, within the span of three years before making his debut at Duke.
Giles wasn’t able to get onto the floor for the Blue Devils until their 12th game. He missed the first leg of last season after an extended recovery period for what most considered a minor knee procedure.
Prior to his injury history, Giles was in the conversation for the number one pick. He had ranked ahead of names like Markelle Fultz and Josh Jackson throughout his amateur career, while a tough, mobile big capable of creating offense out to the perimeter is something that every NBA team needs.
His game, however, has changed drastically since. He’s no longer the hyper-athletic shot creator that once soared up draft boards.
Giles had to make adjustments last season, taking into account his loss of explosiveness and tailoring his game to one specific niche — a specific niche that could still yield NBA success in Sacramento.
Giles made his presence felt most heavily on the boards last season. While his counting stats weren’t great at first glance, limited playing time is solely at fault for that.
He showed great instincts underneath, gravitating towards rebounds and boasting excellent fundamentals on box outs. His effort has always been an endearing factor with him as a prospect, but last season, it legitimately became his greatest asset.
It’s going to be difficult for Giles to restore the offensive success he once had. Even healthier legs won’t get back the entirety of the athleticism he lost, which strips him of the perimeter arsenal he leaned on during his high school days.
He was pigeonholed to scoring at the rim last season, and that’s likely where his offensive bread and butter will be from here on out.
A decent finisher who should improve his touch once his legs are back under him, Giles should be a fine pick-and-roll partner who can finish off lobs and score occasionally around the block. But that isn’t what defines him as a prospect, and isn’t what’ll keep him on the floor for a team that already has Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere trending upwards.
The effort — on the boards and defensively — is where Giles will thrive at the next level. There aren’t many players who have Giles’ work ethic, and that’s in part due to the experiences he had over the past couple of seasons.
He knows he’s not the player he was in high school, but he’s putting in the work needed to overcome that.
At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Giles’ physical tools bode well for the next level. He’s long enough to bother shots at the rim, while he could gradually evolve into a more prominent shot blocker if he’s able to stave off further injury. He has the instincts needed to make plays, it’s just a matter of being comfortable enough on his feet.
He’ll also be entering an ideal situation in Sacramento. While the loss of Scott Perry to New York is a significant blow to their front office, their commitment to a positive culture over the past season has greatly shifted the outlook for this team moving forward.
They’re no longer treading on mediocrity behind DeMarcus Cousins, and the likes of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic all figure to carry major roles in leading this rebuild moving forward.
They’ve made a point to add young, high-character talent, and their locker room — even from the outside looking in — seems to be showing massive growth as a result.
Giles will have time to get healthy and hone his craft as the third or fourth-string center next season, working with an NBA training staff while avoiding any significant stress on his body. He’ll also be learning from Zach Randolph, as well as other veterans on the roster.
“I have open ears, open eyes, ready to learn [from] my vets,” Giles said during media day. “I’m trying to listen in and get better every day.”
When asked about his health, Giles said that he feels great.
“The team has taken their time to work with me, work on the things I need to work on… [I’m] starting to feel better every day,” Giles said.
Long term, Giles projects as a backup — which is more than fine. He’s a high-energy big who produces at a high level in the role he’s asked to fill, and that has underrated value in today’s league.
In a 60-man draft, not too many players will be stars. Giles has a spot as somebody who can do the little things right — boxing out, playing smart defense and positioning himself well on offense.
If he’s able to get back a fraction of the explosiveness that he once had, that only furthers his ability to fill a role that still has meaning.
Giles may never see the Kings’ starting lineup this season, but he’s somebody who should become a fan favorite as a hard-nosed, well-rounded reserve.