Elias Harris

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Joseph Treutlein

Very few freshman in the country have had as significant an impact for their teams as Elias Harrishas for Gonzaga thus far this season, which isn’t surprising given the 20-year-old freshman’s profile. With high-level international experience under his belt, the 6’7 combo forward with a very well-built body has come in and started all 6 of his team’s games, playing 29 minutes on average, pretty much exclusively at the power forward position.

From a physical standpoint, Harris certainly looks the part of an NBA small forward or combo forward, having great size and good length with a very strong frame, and possessing very good athleticism to go along with it. He’s an explosive player with very good quickness, exceptional coordination and very strong mobility, while also having very good upper body strength. Harris has spent pretty much all of his time playing as a big man for the Bulldogs, but with each passing game, he shows a little more of his perimeter game.

Harris spent the first two games of the season doing a lot of work with his back to the basket, showing a decent arsenal of hook shots and runners going across the lane, doing a good job of drawing contact and getting to the line, but struggling with his touch at times shooting over bigger opponents in the paint. His post game is certainly effective against college 4’s, but it’s hard to envision Harris having consistent success as a back-to-the-basket power forward in the NBA, as doesn’t have the size or brute power to really make much of a living doing that. 

Harris provides more intrigue with his face-up game, something that was on display in all three games in Maui, where he showed dribble drive moves from all areas of the court, showing off his impressive coordination and footwork. Harris incorporates a lot of advanced moves into his forays to the rim, namely spin moves and hop steps, which he might rely on a bit too heavily at this point. Harris’ left hand appears pretty weak, and pretty much every time he goes left, he only does so to set up a very effective left-to-right spin move, something opposing teams will pick up on over time if he doesn’t make them respect his left hand. Harris’ athletic abilities are on full display when he’s attacking the basket off the dribble, making very rangy plays with the ball and finishing well in the lane with various finesse and power moves.

Harris’ jump shot is still a work in progress, though he has the foundation of good shooting form in place, and he’s had flashes of success in his few games thus far. One thing that stands out with Harris’ shot is how few jumpers he takes in rhythm, as he rarely readies himself for the catch-and-shoot when the ball is coming to him. He often hesitates with the ball for a good second or so before putting the ball up, and he often looks a bit mechanical in his motions. Other than that, he shows occasional problems with not getting full extension on all his releases. That said, he does have a high release point and the rest of his motion is pretty consistent, so this is an area he should improve on if he puts in the work, and will surely be a very important factor in whether or not he’s able to make the conversion to playing on the wing full time.

Another strong point of Harris’ game is his high motor and basketball IQ, as he makes a lot of hustles plays in the game and usually doesn’t settle for many low-percentage shots. Harris makes a big impact attacking the glass on both ends of the court and diving for loose balls. He’s a competitive guy with great toughness who doesn’t back down from anyone, something that has given Gonzaga (a team typically deemed to be a bit on the soft side) a huge boost this season.

Defensively, Harris has great physical tools with his size, length, and good lateral quickness, while also having a pretty good fundamental base in place for perimeter defense, where he shows a good stance and moves his feet well. He doesn’t get to match up against opposing threes at this level, but he appears as if he has the tools to defend that position. He’s done so in the past, notably this past summer in the European championships playing for the German National Team, where he garnered invaluable experience. In the post, he also shows good fundamentals, and holds his position pretty well with his base strength, but his lack of size poses concerns if you’re projecting him to play the power forward in the NBA, and it’s caused some troubles here already. 

Projecting Harris to the next level is not a seamless task at this point, as he’s still getting his feet underneath him in the college game, and some uncertainty about what direction he’ll take his game in. His hustle play and strong foundation of skills definitely bode well for his future, but there are still a lot of question marks about what position he’s best suited to play, and whether or not he’ll be given the opportunity to develop his perimeter game on a team that currently asks him to play the power forward position full time. Either way, Harris’ future looks extremely bright, and in the worst case scenario, he could always take his German passport and cash in on a very lucrative contract in Europe down the road. 

This post does not reflect the views of the blog authors or SB Nation.

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