Player: Harry Giles
Relevant stats: Giles played in 38 games for Sacramento this season and started 17. He averaged 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game while shooting 56.0% from the field.
Contract status: The Kings declined to pick up Giles’ fourth-year option at the Oct. 31 deadline, making Giles an unrestricted free agent this offseason, whenever that happens.
Recap: Giles was on tenuous footing with the Kings entering the 2019-20 season. He had already missed his entire rookie season rehabbing knee injuries that plagued him in high school and college, and then missed the end of 2018-19 with a left thigh injury, when there were developmental minutes to be had since Sacramento was already out of the playoff race. He then came into training camp out of shape, according to reports from the team. That, combined with an inability to make an impact when he was on the court last season, led the Kings to decline his fourth-year option.
At the start of the season, all signs to this being another lost year for Giles. He missed all of preseason with knee soreness and then sat the first eight games of the season. He saw spot minutes over the next nine games and then once again was back on the bench for 15 straight contests.
But then, something miraculous happened. Through a combination of Marvin Bagley’s injuries and Dewayne Dedmon’s poor production, Sacramento needed another big in the rotation, and Giles was there, ready to go. The Kings had also lost six games in a row, much to the chagrin of Harrison Barnes’ face, so a change was necessary.
After Giles became a regular in the rotation, Sacramento went 16-16. He had settled in as the regular starter at center, though it is unclear if that would have continued with Richaun Holmes fully back from injury. Either way, Giles had become an integral part of the Kings lineup during a successful stretch.
As a start, Giles averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game, giving him per-36 averages of 17.8 points and 11.4 rebounds. Those numbers over the course of a full season would make Giles a top-20 offensive center, just a bit below average, but completely acceptable for a 22-year-old who has only played 96 total NBA games.
Giles is a bit slight of build to be a post-up threat, and he’s not a great finisher off the pick-and-roll because he doesn’t set good enough screens. However, he runs the floor well and is slightly above average on isolations, where his quickness comes in handy against other bigs. He does most of his damage in the halfcourt off cuts, which account for 25.8% possessions. Giles scored 1.32 points per possession on cuts, placing him in the 59th percentile league-wide.
He isn’t a great rebounder for his position, with the lack of strength again being an issue on box-outs. However, Giles is a decent passer, and he can find cutters from the high post.
Defensively, Giles is a bit of trainwreck. He fouls way too frequently and doesn’t block enough shots to make it worthwhile. Per Pivot Analysis, opponents shoot 76.1% at the rim when Giles is defending, which is basically a layup line. The Kings also rebound the ball terribly when he’s on the floor.
The allure with Giles is that when things are going well, he passes the eye test with flying colors. I think about this sequence from when he was at Duke all the time, or his lob dunk to put away the Clippers in February. He looks like he could be one of the best players in the world.
But the on-off numbers with Giles are atrocious. Sacramento has a -11.5 point differential with Giles on the court, per Cleaning the Glass. Holmes and Alex Len are +1.0 and +10.7 net rating, respectively, and even Dedmon was only -4.2.
Take the current starting lineup with De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, and Giles — that has a -20.3 point differential. Replace Giles with any other player, not even necessarily a center, and that unit outscores opponents by 4.8 points per 100 possessions. The data suggests that the Kings aren’t winning because of Giles, rather they’re winning in spite of him.
It’s clear from watching Giles why he was such a highly-touted prospect because he has impressive guard skills at his size. But he never had to go up against stout bigs in high school, so he isn’t as physical as you would hope for from a center, and then his injuries have sapped him of some of the athleticism that made him special. There is reason to believe that Giles just needs an extended stretch of being healthy to acclimate himself to NBA basketball; it is also perfectly valid to believe that Giles will never get that, and the player he is now isn’t good enough.
Future with the Kings: The history of first-round picks who have their fourth-year option declined and still become productive NBA players is bleak. Kevon Looney stuck around with the Warriors after having his option declined and was pretty good in his fourth season, but his injury situation is scary. Austin Rivers had his option declined by the Pelicans, but then was traded to the Clippers and stuck there; he has been a rotation guard for several seasons now. Furkan Korkmaz actually had his third-year option declined, but blossomed in Philadelphia this past year.
There aren’t even too many players who had their fourth-year option declined and succeeded elsewhere. Solomon Hill is the poster child for players who made good in their prove-it season, earning a 4-year, $50 million deal from New Orleans after Indiana gave up on him, but he is the exception, not the rule.
The track record for players like Giles doesn’t bode well for him having a fruitful NBA career. His production this season doesn’t suggest that he deserves more than the $3.9 million the Kings can offer him. The team reportedly turned down trade offers for Giles at the deadline this year, so they have interest in keeping him. They invested a first-round pick in Giles and would like to see him develop in Sacramento, even if the odds are currently stacked against him. It would make sense for Giles to stay with the Kings to develop some continuity after all the upheaval he has faced in his basketball career.
The individual numbers were decent, but the team impact was terrible. If Giles weren’t so young and so raw, this grade would likely be even lower.