Kentucky freshman guard Andrew Harrison has been an integral part of the Wildcats' Final Four run, and during the postseason, his playmaking skills have boosted his NBA draft stock.
The 19-year-old from Fort Bend, Texas, has averaged 11.0 points, 3.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this season. In March, he's stepped things up, dishing 5.7 assists to go along with 11.7 points in conference and national tournaments.
Games like his 20-point outing against Wichita State or his seven-assist performance against Louisville exhibit his ability to attack and create offense at a high level.
His increased productivity late in the season has reignited the interest of scouts, and his stock may actually climb high enough to warrant a first-round selection this year—something that would have sounded absurd merely a few weeks ago.
Strengths: Physical Tools and Creativity
Harrison owns superb measurements for a combo guard, standing at 6'6" with a 6'8" wingspan, per Draft Express, and sporting a strong 215-pound physique.
He employs this size to drive in the lane and challenge people physically, using his momentum to shield his man and extend with length to finish around or over him. Medium-to-small guards have trouble containing him, even if they're quick, because he can slash through them and adjust his scoop shot in midair.
A 215-pound body doesn't sound tremendously imposing, but it's rock-solid for a point guard, and he knows how to use every ounce of it (earned 6.9 free throws per 40 minutes). He's not tactically or fundamentally elite defensively, but his physical gifts enable him to excel on that end when he's dialed in.
This ideal backcourt build, combined with his scoring and playmaking ability, was what initially drove his high draft stock to begin with.
Speaking of his offensive wares, Harrison has a nice repertoire. Here he overwhelms Tennessee with his ball skills and aggressiveness:
Harrison is a more productive passer than his brother Aaron, but as you can see in his highlights, he's far from a pure point who just orchestrates from the perimeter and racks up assists.
Earlier this season, one scout told ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) that Harrison is highly effective as a playmaker when he's in attack mode as a scoring threat: "He's at his best when he's hunting for his own shot."
Armed with a rangy crossover and sneaky-smooth hesitation moves, the young playmaker is dangerous in one-on-one scenarios because he has enough quickness and plenty of handles to shake his man.
When he gets into the paint, he can finish through contact with either hand off the glass, often converting tricky shots other players would badly miss.
If Harrison isn't taking the rock all the way to the rim, he works terrific two-man sequences with drop-off bounce passes and pick-and-roll lobs. Watch how he manipulates Wichita State by changing pace to draw both defenders and then tossing a gem to Willie Cauley-Stein:
As a mid-range and long-range shooter, Harrison needs to work on his efficiency and selection, but the shooting department shouldn't be considered a weakness moving forward. He shot 35 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14, and he'll undoubtedly become a more consistent weapon early in his NBA career.
Weaknesses: Mental Consistency
If you've watched Kentucky at all this year, you know the Harrison twins' struggles played a huge part in the program's rocky ride through the regular season.
Andrew struggled to fully grasp the role of facilitator and offense initiator for the Wildcats, as his assist and scoring numbers wildly fluctuated for the first few months of the campaign. His decision-making skills have been shaky, and his attitude and body language are less than stellar at times.
Harrison's aggressive approach as a slasher and creator intermittently yields some unsightly rashes of turnovers. He's coughed up 3.4 turnovers per 40 minutes, and while he's made steps to clean things up, he kicked off the NCAA tourney with back-to-back six-turnover outings.
He's still learning when to refrain from forcing shots or passes, and this erratic approach leads to sporadic terrible shooting nights or copious giveaways.
Sometimes, he's a little loose with his dribbling while attacking, and veteran opponents take advantage of it. Other times, he's simply careless with his passes, as he "telegraphs" them and gives them to foes on a silver platter.
Court Awareness: Moving Without the Ball and Defensive Discipline
As dangerous as Harrison is with the ball, he's struggled to be an effective presence away from it.
Harrison hasn't been an exemplary figure when it comes to moving without the ball and working smoothly within Kentucky's offense. At times, it was just a matter of him struggling to make the correct reads and cuts.
It should also be noted that below-average focus and fundamentals on the defensive helped contribute to 3.8 fouls per 40 minutes, a number that's pretty high for a guard.
His lack of awareness doesn't massively damage his NBA future, but when scouts and executives see these tendencies, they realize he's not as situationally sharp as a player like Marcus Smart or Tyler Ennis. There's a clear distinction.
Attitude, Intensity and Body Language
Harrison's attitude has improved in the postseason, and winning will do that. However, episodes of sulking or less-than-harmonious interaction with teammates are a part of his recent past.
Every so often, a teammate would have to remind him to generate positive energy for himself and the entire unit.
Andrew Harrison picks up 4th foul, and immediately starts to do the hands-on-head pose. Randle shouts, "Dude, body language!"— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) December 21, 2013
These periodic attitude lapses certainly didn't help Harrison battle inconsistency throughout the winter. Harrison's wavering intensity and focus also hurt his defensive effectiveness.
It's never a good thing when areas like attitude and mental approach are labeled as weaknesses, but we have to give him credit for learning throughout the year and helping the Wildcats thrive in March. The young gun is still making mistakes, but he's bouncing back from them more quickly and better than ever.
He recently talked about working through the disappointments, per Eric Lindsey of UKAthletics.com: "You have to go back and realize who you're playing for: Yourself and your parents and stuff like that. You have to get in the gym and regain that confidence."
If he can gradually strengthen his in-game and overall mindset, he can turn a lot of these weaknesses into strengths.
NBA Role and Draft Outlook
Because Harrison doesn't quite exhibit the complete package of elite athleticism, shooting efficiency and polished floor-general skills, he's viewed as a riskier, less valuable prospect than the other guards at the top of the draft.
That being said, his playmaking skills may earn him a rotational role early in his career, which could eventually lead to a more substantial role if he's able to maximize his opportunity. After all, he owns the size and scoring skills to get the job done against high-caliber guards.
Where will Andrew Harrison land?
This appeal as a long-term prospect may fuel first-round looks in June. One NBA scout told SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria that he could see Harrison landing in the 25-30 range.
Harrison may never be a top-tier guard at the next level. Let's remember that you have to be ridiculously good these days to join the upper echelon.
However, his physical prowess and developing skills could allow him to be a dual-threat attacker on offense and a competent defender. In March, he's taught us to give disappointing early-season freshmen a chance, and the same thing could apply to his NBA career.
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR