It took a couple of crunch-time postseason shots to remind us, but Kentucky's Aaron Harrison has a pretty sweet scoring touch.
He's gotten everyone's attention now, and the 2014 Final Four will actually be a strong opportunity for him to do something with it.
Harrison came to Kentucky regarded by many as a one-and-done first-rounder, but he just couldn't find a way to stand out in an offense loaded with weapons.
Take a look at Harrison's place in Kentucky's offensive pecking order based on the percentage of possessions he's been used in:
|Percentage of Kentucky's Possessions Used|
|Julius Randle||26.6 percent|
|Andrew Harrison||21.9 percent|
|James Young||21.8 percent|
|Aaron Harrison||20.6 percent|
He's used just 20.6 percent of Kentucky's possessions, fourth most in the offense.
Still, Harrison will enter the Final Four tied for second on Kentucky in scoring, and with his strong postseason play, he's given scouts a reason to watch him closely.
He certainly aces the eye test out there—at 6'6", 218 pounds, Harrison has the look and feel of a next-level 2-guard.
And in his sales pitch to the NBA, his strongest point will revolve around his dangerous perimeter-scoring arsenal.
It's not just spot-up three-point shooting—Harrison can generate offense in that 18-24-foot range in a variety of different ways.
He's a guy you can give the ball to in the closing seconds and let go to work one-on-one, like he did against Michigan in the Elite Eight, when he took a few dribbles before rising and firing right over his defender for the game-winner:
Harrison also does a lot of perimeter scoring within Kentucky's offense, whether he's coming off a curl or rubbing off a screen.
He can shoot it off the bounce, which allows him to find that open space to release away from his defender or traffic. We've seen Harrison use an escape dribble before jumping into his shot delivery:
He's also a threat with the pull-up jumper, which comes in handy off pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs:
Harrison might actually be the most valuable in the spot-up game where he can stretch the defense off the ball. He's got deep three-point range, and he shoots it well and in rhythm off the catch.
He's making 35.7 percent of his three-point attempts (an average number but one that should definitely improve) this season, with 54 of his 60 three-point makes coming off an assist, per Hoop-Math.
Harrison is a target in the drive-and-dish game, and a guy whom help defenders just can't leave.
Heading into the Final Four, he's got 14 triples in four NCAA tournament games, with four of them, including a game-winner, coming in the second half against Michigan, one coming with 40 seconds left against Louisville to take the lead, and three in the second half of a tight one against Wichita State.
"'If I do miss, I'm making the next one,'" coach John Calipari said of Harrison's shooting mentality via Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. "'And I will shoot the next one.' That's where he is right now."
Harrison has one of those shooting hands that's capable of heating up and knocking down shots in bunches.
However, while he's been sharp away from the rim, his most glaring challenge, present and future, is getting closer to it in the half court.
Lack of Explosiveness
It might seem like a minor detail, but Harrison's lack of explosiveness could really limit him. It's almost like a weight holding him down.
Though Harrison is comfortable on the perimeter, one of the reasons he does so much of his work there is his inability to explode to the rack with his first step or his last.
Harrison lacks that blow-by speed and upward burst, and it forces him to settle on the perimeter for lower-percentage shots.
Take a look at the wide-open lane Harrison has baseline below:
But instead of hitting the gap and attacking it, he takes a dribble in the wrong direction away from the rim for a contested, fall-away jumper:
Ironically, he's actually a decent finisher at the rim. It's getting there for easy buckets that's been the issue.
Harrison's lack of explosiveness and elusiveness off the dribble has really hurt his shot selection. Look at how little of Harrison's shots come at the rim, compared to how many he takes away from it:
|Percentage of Shots Taken|
|At the Rim||23.7 percent|
|On Two-Point Jumpers||34.3 percent|
|On Three-Pointers||42.4 percent|
Next Step for Harrison
He's just too reliant on the jumper at this point, and his jumper isn't good enough to single-handedly carry him in the pros.
Harrison doesn't rebound (2.9 per game) or create (1.9 assists per game), and though he's a nice defender, he's not a difference-maker—so his scoring touch really has to be extra special.
He's going to have to expand his off-the-dribble game, as well as improve his shooting consistency from outside. Right now, he's just not a threatening enough scorer if you take away the jumper.
We've seen flashes of his floater and runner between the arc and traffic in the paint:
But this is an area of his game he'll need to work on for the next level—finding ways to score attacking north and south instead of just settling for shots around the arc.
Overall, Harrison has the tools and skill set to attract NBA attention. He probably needs another year at Kentucky to get some extra reps before making the jump.
But there's no denying his talent, and if he's able to catch fire once again against Wisconsin and then Florida or Connecticut, it would be hard to imagine him returning to school and not striking while the iron is hot.
Still, without that big-time athleticism or explosiveness, his upside is fairly limited. Regardless of how well he plays in the Final Four, don't expect any drastic changes to draft boards.
Whether he goes this year or the next, consider Harrison a fringe first-round option.
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