The Los Angeles Lakers just might have found a real diamond in the rough with undrafted free agent signing Elias Harris.
At 6'8" 240 pounds, the forward is a unique physical specimen that has the potential to become a crucial part of the Lakers' rotation next season. Speaking with Mark Trudell of NBA.com, the Lakers player development coach Mark Madsen was quick to heap praise on the Lakers surprise summer edition:
Elias had a great summer league. His versatility is the thing you notice right away, because he can play the two, the three or the four. He came in with a pretty developed perimeter game conducive to the NBA, and is working on adding more and more.
That much of Madsen's interview we already knew. Anyone that watched the forward put up 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in the summer league saw the impressive skill set he'll be bringing to the Lakers' bench this season.
What's most impressive, however, is the dedication to learn and grow as a player that Madsen went on to describe to Trudell:
We see Elias almost every day, and he's taking all the nuances of what (assistant coach) Dan D'Antoni is teaching him, focusing on making his shot a more balanced and consistent shot. His driving game is something he's spending a lot of time with (player development coach) Larry Lewis on, taking all the materials Larry's giving him and implementing them into his game.
While Harris may have went undrafted, it's this kind of dedication to improving his game that will allow him to make a bigger impact than many first-round draft picks this year.
Well, that, and the opportunity that he's sure to have with the Lakers. While many rookies will have to deal with plenty of competition for minutes, Harris is fortunate enough to join a team that didn't have much depth at his position to begin with.
As a player that can play either the small or power forward position, Harris joins Wesley Johnson as one of the few options behind starter Nick Young at small forward and is the only stretch 4 behind Pau Gasol on the roster. When you hear what Madsen has to say about Harris carving out a niche on the roster, a certain former Laker certainly comes to mind:
The NBA is a league of specialists and I think Elias could have a number of them. There's no question in my mind that he can be a defensive stopper. He's already proven the ability to get out in transition and finish on the break. He can also play the half court game and wear someone down with his size and strength. And as he continues to hone that three-point shot, that can be really big for him.
A 6'8", 240-pound athletic forward that can play lockdown defense? That sounds an awful lot like recently amnestied Laker Metta World Peace. Say what you will about World Peace's declining game, no player had a higher plus-minus ratio than the veteran forward last season, per 82games.com.
Expecting Harris to fulfill the void left by World Peace might not be realistic. But getting even a fraction of his production off the bench from a rookie that wasn't even selected in the draft?
That's a huge boost for a Lakers team that desperately needs cheap options to step up this season.