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The steps Harry Giles must take for sophomore success

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Entering his second season, the promising big man must improve in certain areas to make a bigger impact.

Kimani Okearah

Picking up Giannis Antetokounmpo full court after a basket by Harry Giles, Marvin Bagley III backtracked his way on defense until he was drilled by a screen he wasn’t aware of. Bagley couldn’t get up and shock mixed with partial boos permeated Golden 1 Center. Although the injury turned out to be less serious than originally speculated, the first one to him as he laid on the court was Giles who talked to him and patted his chest.

The Kings trailed 104-91 at this point and needed a spark after what had just occurred. Enter Harry Giles. Early in the fourth quarter, he went right at Giannis and converted a hook shot. The next minute, he ran the floor after a rebound and made a tough reverse layup. Then Bogdan Bogdanovic set Giles up with a nifty, quick bounce pass for an easy drop in basket. A few minutes later, he took the ball from the high post and drove right by Brook Lopez and finished with the left-handed layup against one of the best rim protectors in basketball.

Sacramento eventually lost the game in overtime but one thing became clear - Giles could ball.

The 20th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Giles red-shirted his first year to rehab his injuries and became a “rookie” in his sophomore season. The glaring issue right away for him was staying on the court. He amassed 40 fouls in the first 17 games of the season and only registered 85 points in that same span. I’m not a fan of the basic plus/minus stats because it can be genuinely misleading quite frequently, but accumulating a combined +/- of -104 during these games cannot be overlooked.

As the season went on, Giles was able to stay in games much longer than before because the fouls didn’t obstruct his ability to produce positively on the floor. While his monthly foul average fluctuated between the two and three mark, his point production consistently progressed in the right direction along with raised rebounds, assists and field goal percentages. However, a left thigh contusion ultimately ended his season, right when things were slowly beginning to click.

Giles is entering his second season in the league where players get trapped in the infamous “sophomore slump”, but like a fellow teammate just did in his second year, there’s plenty of reasons to believe Giles can thrive this upcoming season with the hopes of him staying healthy.

The mid-range game

The first step is to increase his offensive arsenal by developing a shot outside of the paint. Giles converted on 62.2 percent of his shots when less than by five feet from the rim and also shot 43.6 percent within nine feet. But the farther he is from the rim, he attempted a lower amount of shots and didn’t make them.

In fact, he was 20-59 on mid-range shots which comes out at a rough 33.9 percent. In the clip above, Giles is given all the room he needs by Montrezl Harrell to take a shot but he gives it to Corey Brewer who finishes at the rim.

If you don’t take it, you don’t make it and Giles developing a jumper to expand his game will be a big factor for the offense.

However, when Giles does attempt jumpers, his shot is purely exquisite. His hands and feet simultaneously rise up and his high point of release makes it a difficult shot to contest.

Giles is a delightful operator in the high post, whether he is dropping dimes to players cutting to the basket, pairing with shooters on dribble hand offs or making skip passes for three point looks, he knows what to do with the ball. Adding a consistent jumper to his assortment of flashy offensive tools will only help him thrive in Sacramento’s offense and boost his potential among the core.

In his G-League debut, Giles racked up 28 points and showed off the ability to hit mid-range jumpers and even knocked down two three pointers - he just has to prove he can translate that to the big leagues.

Stay on the court

A big aspect of his defensive game that needs to notably improve is his fouls. He averaged 2.6 personal fouls a game and though it’s competent to have that average if you’re playing big minutes, it’s displeasing to hold that number when you’re on the court for 14.1 minutes a game.

Giles committed 72 defensive fouls on the season which was the fifth most on the Kings last season, but he played strikingly less minutes. In 820 logged minutes, he committed seven less fouls than De’Aaron Fox who played 2546 minutes (ranked fourth in fouls) and seven more fouls than Bogdan Bogdanovic who played 1947 minutes (ranked sixth in fouls).

Despite not being equipped to handle a major minute role yet, Giles would also average 6.6 fouls per 36 minutes so it’s not exactly encouraging to know your potential key big man would be fouling out every game.

However, as the season advanced, Giles illustrated the potential to limit his fouls with an increase in minutes.

Harry Giles fouls by month

Month Mins per game Fouls per game Games Played
Month Mins per game Fouls per game Games Played
October 11.6 3.3 6
November 9.7 1.8 11
December 9.4 2.2 6
January 16.6 2.8 15
February 15.3 3.2 10
March 18.6 2.3 10
stats via NBA.com

In October, he was nearly unplayable because of his inability to last on the floor and not rack up fouls but it did improve, especially in March when he played the most minutes and wasn’t a liability to accumulate fouls.

Lower the turnovers

Giles averaged 1.3 turnovers a game this past season and also owned a faulty turnover percentage of 15.8, which did not rank well on the roster. Not attributing Caleb Swanigan and Skal Labissiere’s turnover percentages, Giles possessed the worst turnover percentage on the team and played a quality amount of minutes compared to the other two bigs.

While his turnovers are preventable if he makes smarter decisions with the ball or do too much with it, his lack of a mid-range game hinders his ability to prevent such turnovers.

When there is no cutters or movement while he operates in the high post, Giles can do two things with the ball: spot up for a jumper or take it to the rim. He doesn’t possess a developed jumper to utilize so he’s forced to pick the latter and driving layups failed to benefit him, as he finished just 38.5 percent of those attempts.

Giles tends to get crafty when attempting to drive to the rim and that was a frequent area of turnovers. In the clip, he has room for a deep two but because that isn’t a skill yet, he tried to get crafty and get past Richaun Holmes who is able to take the ball away. Like mentioned above, if Giles can expand his game to include jumpers outside of the paint, he won’t have to rely on driving to the rim if nothing else is available in the high post.

Here’s another example that doesn’t include Giles getting set in a high post position. After securing the ball, he glances up to survey the floor but puts his head down and goes right at Andre Drummond. However, he attempts to get past him with fancy dribbling which leads to him losing it himself and Jose Calderon took advantage.

This is another unsatisfactory decision with a seven point lead and aiming to close out the quarter strong. Bogdan Bogdanovic gives it to Giles who is supposed to be followed by Kevin Durant but Durant stays back because of Harrison Barnes cutting to the basket and having an open angle.

Giles has to be smarter and not force it in there because once he saw the black jersey in a minimal gap, he quickly forced the pass in there and resulted in a bad turnover, when instead he could’ve taken a crack at a wide open shot.

The biggest factor in success for Giles right now is to prove he can stay healthy, then everything else will follow. I don’t know how much of a leap he takes this upcoming season but if he starts to reach his potential and maybe more, the core in Sacramento will only get stronger with an extra piece to the puzzle that is pushing for a playoff spot - a puzzle that has taken years to assemble together.

If Harry Giles can attach a mid-range shot to his big hands, limit his fouls to stay on the court longer, be smarter with the ball and join these skills with his already impressive potential skillset he flashed last season, he’ll definitely be in for a successful sophomore campaign.