Few teams in the NBA have been as good at drafting and developing players as the Toronto Raptors. Year after year they seem to turn late first-round picks or undrafted free agents into NBA contributors. They only seem to have one drafting weakness: the second round.
Aside from Norman Powell, the Raptors' track record in the second round has been pretty lackluster.
Jalen Harris, however, appears to be turning some heads. It's still way too soon to make any definitive proclamations about Harris. The 22-year-old guard has played a total of 45 NBA minutes, most of which have come in garbage time. That being said, he's looked pretty comfortable out on the court lately in some actual meaningful action during Toronto's West Coast road trip.
"He obviously stepped in and made some shots and I thought he looked confident out there, just kind of out there with the ball and moving around, etc," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Harris' career-high 11-point, 13-minute night on Tuesday. "He played good and I can’t think of any real mistakes he made so when you make all your shots and I can’t remember any other mistakes, you must have had a pretty good night."
It was almost a perfect night from Harris. He went 4-for-4 from the field and held his own on the defensive end. At the very least, he's shown that he deserves more minutes down the stretch run, something Nurse has already said he's hoping to find for Harris.
Between injuries and a truncated G-League season, Harris hasn't been able to take full advantage of Toronto's developmental plans. He played in just seven games with the Raptors 905 because a hand injury and a hip injury forced him out of the lineup first in the G-League and then in the NBA.
"I've had a lot of ups and downs throughout my whole career so I think it's just more of that," Harris said. "I've been pretty used to the adversity and so I think just trying to continue to push, continue to push through. That's kind of been my mindset so like I said I've been working day in and day out, just waiting on opportunities, I think opportunities are starting to come in and just trying to maximize."
Lately, he's caught the attention of Fred VanVleet who has been one of Harris' role models within the organization.
"He's a baller," VanVleet said. "It's cool to see him step in here. Obviously you see the confidence, the shot-making, super athletic. He's gotta get his feet wet a little bit. He's a little fresh out there, but as he gets more comfortable, I think you'll see more of his game. But he's just a baller. He's just a baller. It's not the prettiest, not the prototypical game, but he knows what he's doing out there."
The next few games are going to be crucial for Harris' development. If he can continue to impress down the stretch and if he finds success in the G-League next season he has a chance to be one of the few second-round picks to stick with the Raptors in quite a long time.