Once a No. 1 Candidate, Duke's Harry Giles III Likely Can't Save His Draft Stock

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 4, 2017

GREENSBORO, NC - DECEMBER 21: Harry Giles #1 of the Duke Blue Devils waits at the scorer's table during their game against the Elon Phoenix at the Greensboro Coliseum on December 21, 2016 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Duke won 72-61. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

Everything about Harry Giles III's situation at Duke suggests a 2017 NBA draft slide is coming.

Having already torn both ACLs before turning 19 years old, it's become clear just how damaging the timing was of October's setbacka third pre-college surgery that forced him to miss the first 11 games of the 2016-17 season.

Predicting a tumble down June's board isn't a knee-jerk reaction to the 23 total minutes he's played, either. Although, if we learned anything from his early action against Tennessee State, Elon and Virginia Tech, it's that he isn't ready for impact basketball.

Giles still has two-plus months to get back his legs and confidence, of course. The question is whether he'll have the opportunity jumping in midseason to a loaded lineup with national title aspirations.

Senior Amile Jefferson has emerged as one of the country's most valuable players, averaging 13.8 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks on 63.2 percent shooting. As Duke's leader, his 31.2 minutes per game appear secure.

Playing freshman Jayson Tatum at the 4 also gives Duke a mismatch and go-to scorer (15.8 points per game) in the lineup. For what it's worth, the Jefferson-Giles-Tatum frontcourt struggled badly Saturday.

And with Grayson Allen out, Duke needs more offense. Outside of Luke Kennard, the rest of the team shot 17-of-48 during its 14-point loss to the Hokies.

Kennard has emerged as a National Player of the Year candidate, and the Blue Devils need Matt Jones' defense and veteran presence. Throw in Frank Jackson (11.8 points per game), Marques Bolden, Chase Jeter and the likelihood of Allen returning at some point, and Giles' workload can only grow so big.

He won't have significant reps to build individual rhythm, strengthen his post game or showcase his jumper—skills he'd want to show teams to convince them he's more than just a run-and-jump big man. With so many weapons, Duke isn't going to use too many possessions featuring Giles, who's on the raw side to begin with.

GREENSBORO, NC - DECEMBER 21: Harry Giles #1 of the Duke Blue Devils concentrates at the free-throw line against the Elon Phoenix at the Greensboro Coliseum on December 21, 2016 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Duke won 72-61. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Ima
Lance King/Getty Images

His monster physical tools (6'11" size, 7'3" wingspan) and athleticism have always powered his production and upside. But at this stage of his development, he isn't polished enough to play anything more than a secondary or energizer role in this particular offense.

So far, he's spent most of his minutes running the baseline or getting looked off by his guards at the elbows. Duke can get better looks than contested Giles jump hooks, the only shot he comfortably creates for himself.

Plus, given his injury history and long-term potential, the coaching staff is likely to continue taking precaution and avoid running Giles too hard.

Assuming he makes it through the year and declares, he'll enter the draft having only played two-and-a-half full seasons since his freshman campaign in high school. Scouts would presumably want to see more than just rebounds and finishes to consider taking him early, especially when they account for the risk factor (his knee history) and strength of the projected 2017 field.

Other athletic and/or highly skilled freshmen putting up big numbers include: Washington's Markelle Fultz, North Carolina State's Dennis Smith Jr., UCLA's Lonzo Ball, Kansas' Josh Jackson, Kentucky's Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox, Arizona's Lauri Markkanen, Michigan State's Miles Bridges, Florida State's Jonathan Isaac and even Tatum.

Add California's Ivan Rabb (15.2 points, 10.3 boards) and France's Frank Ntilikina (MVP of December's U18 European Championship) into the mix, and NBA teams will have exciting (and perceived safer) alternative options to draft in the lottery.

Without anything more than flashes, Giles will have a difficult time getting a general manager to pass on more productive prospects, many of whom will have similarly high ceilings and fewer red flags.

A return to Duke as a sophomore would also seem highly unlikely, even if he does have trouble breaking out this season. Coming back opens the door to more risk before the draft, and any further physical setback would destroy his NBA stock.

Projecting a longer-than-expected draft night for Giles has nothing to do with his talent. Scouts and anyone who's seen him prior to the season recognized him as special. In 2015, before his second torn ACL, ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman called him the top recruit of the decade outside of Anthony Davis:

Even after his second torn ACL, NBA evaluators were predicting Giles could still go No. 1.

"If I had to make the pick [No. 1 overall] right now, it would probably be Giles, as long as his knee holds up," one general manager told Bleacher Report back in September.

But Giles' knee didn't hold up, and now he's in a tough spot, forced to try to sell himself in a loaded rotation after showing up late and missing all of last year.

He's now in position to go from being a potential top selection to a value pick for a late-lottery or mid-first team. Nothing has changed regarding Giles' potential; he just won't have a great opportunity in college to show he's on track to reach it.

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