The Denver Nuggets have reportedly agreed to an extension with Gary Harris, to the tune of four years and $84 million, with $74 million guaranteed and the remaining $10 million triggered by individual performance bonuses.
The extension keeps Harris from hitting restricted free agency next summer, which probably benefits Harris, given how brutal restricted free agency was in 2017, and how little cap space league wide there will be next summer. He’s also ahead of his class—no player picked ahead of Harris in the 2014 NBA draft has yet signed an extension—and apparently jumping early, before anyone else could set the market, has landed him a pretty damn healthy salary. It sucks to think of these things purely in terms of winners and losers, but, thankfully, both sides did well—Harris is a really good, really steady two-way guard, and now he’s being paid for what he’ll be, which is an important starter on a good team. This deal, at $18.5 million guaranteed, pays Harris in the range of the ten highest salaries at his position.
(This doesn’t mean much of anything, but it’s fun all the same: when Nate Duncan did his annual Mock Rookie Extensions 2017 podcast back in early September, the number they settled on for an early extension to keep Gary Harris out of restricted free agency next summer was four years and $68 million, with no player options and a small (five percent) trade bonus. Harris’s agents at CAA Sports did pretty well!)
It also firmly settles one part of Denver’s backcourt equation, going forward. Jamal Murray’s skill-set suits both guard spots pretty well, and the competition between Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay left open the question of where Murray might ultimately land, especially if Harris were to somehow leave in restricted free agency. With Harris now locked up long-term on bonafide starter money, the point guard competition is somewhat reframed: if Murray isn’t the team’s starting point guard, he is for sure a backup, instead of a repurposed shooting guard. Probably the best case scenario for the Nuggets has Murray seizing the starting gig, and the team finding a way to move on from Mudiay. He’s still a spaz with the ball—he’s turned it over 15 times in three preseason games so far, for a hilarious 28.6 turnover ratio—and he doesn’t have Murray’s electric shooting ability, but he’s young enough that a team further back in the developmental stages of rebuilding might be willing to take a flier on his potential.
There’s a lot to like about a Murray-Harris backcourt duo: both guys can shoot, but in ways that complement each other (Harris is better off the ball, while Murray can be a deadly shooter off the dribble); Harris is a good cutter and slasher, and both guys can whirr around elbow action featuring Nikola Jokic; and Harris, a good defender, can take on the tougher perimeter assignment each night. Put those two guys around Jokic, fill in the roster with solid defenders, and you’ve got a recipe for fun, fast, exciting, competitive basketball for years to come. Next on the docket in Denver will be locking up Jokic, a genuinely sublime offensive player who will absolutely garner a maximum contract offer if he makes it to restricted free agency. The Nuggets will be fun and good, and they will also be really, really expensive.