Nuggets To Try And Sign Gary Harris To A Contract Extension This Summer

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 | Denver Nuggets

By Christopher Dempsey, Altitude Sports

If not for Nikola Jokic’s potential award-winning season, the Nuggets player who would be garnering the hottest most-improved spotlight would be shooting guard Gary Harris.

“I still don’t think the league appreciates how good he is and how young he is,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said.

But Connelly and the Nuggets do. That’s why the Nuggets will open discussions on a lucrative contract extension for Harris this summer.

“Gary’s going to be here for a long, long time,” Connelly said.

Harris is in the third year of his rookie scale contract, which, according to the collective bargaining agreement, is paying him $3,968,800 for the first three years and is scheduled to be $2,125,046 for the fourth year, which is a team option year. The two sides have until Oct. 31 to agree to an extension.

“He’s a guy that kind of embodies everything that we’re trying to be, both as a player and as a person,” Connelly said. “Whether it’s this summer or whether it’s the following summer, he’s going to be here for a very long time.”

Harris’ numbers have shown improvement in its purest form. Harris has played slightly fewer minutes this season (31.3) than last season (32.1), yet almost all of his stats are up. He’s averaging career highs in points (14.9), rebounds (3.1), assists (2.9), shooting percentage (50.3), and 3-point shooting percentage (42.0).

Harris has improved his scoring average and his shooting percentages from the field in each of his first three seasons. His 3-point percentage is eighth in the NBA.

“I use Gary as both a cautionary tale with our staff and also kind of a symbol of success for our young guys,” Connelly said. “Gary had an awful rookie year; up and down minutes, horrific shooting for a two-guard. But I told him this: My gut tells me you’re going to be a really good player. You’re a good kid, you work hard, you’re extremely athletic. I joke with him, you had like no dunks at Michigan State and now he dunks all the time.”

Harris’ season started off with speedbumps. He was injured in training camp. Then, after returning early in the regular season, was injured again. In all, Harris missed 20 of the first 25 games due to injuries. But since Jan. 22, Harris has played in every game with averages of 16.2 points on 51.4 percent shooting.

Connelly’s belief that Harris would turn into a solid player never wavered.

“Sometimes you have to go with your gut – 6-4, long arm, fast-twitch athlete with a nose for the ball defensively who can make shots and cares,” Connelly said. “I think you can get too lost at times in analytics and too lost at times not seeing the forest for the trees. Now, he’s taken a monstrous step.”

Meanwhile, the Nuggets will take a wait-and-see approach with forward Danilo Gallinari. The veteran can opt out of the final year of his contract and test the market as an unrestricted free agent this summer. At that time, the Nuggets will be one of the teams in the mix for his services.

“I think it’s no secret we really value Gallo, both as a player and as a person,” Connelly said. “So, with free agency, if he does choose to opt out there’s a lot of unknowns. How does the market develop? What do the various teams look like that are chasing him? What does he want in terms of contract and years; all of those things will certainly play a role. It would be premature of me to guess. He’s a guy that we value, he’s had a great year.”

Gallinari is the Nuggets’ leading scorer for a second-straight season, averaging 18.2 points. His shooting percentage of 44.7 is the second-highest of his career. His 3-point percentage of 38.9 is also the second-highest of his career.

“He’s been here for a long time, one of our core guys,” Connelly said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens this summer. Gallo loves Denver. And he’s a really, really good guy. If he doesn’t opt out, we’d be very happy with that. If he chooses to opt out, he’s certainly going to be one of our primary focuses. “

Christopher Dempsey: or Twitter: @chrisadempsey