It’s very rare for a second-round draft pick just a few selections away from being a UDFA to get into his fanbases’ good graces so quickly. It’s even less common for that player in question to remain beloved one year after his last game with the team. That’s exactly what’s transpired between the Toronto Raptors and Jalen Harris.
Harris was picked 59th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, though Raptors fans saw very fleeting glimpses of first-round talent from the veteran Nevada alum. His career hit a major roadblock that would’ve derailed most careers, as he was suspended by the league for violating the league’s anti-drug program.
While many players would have thrown their hands up and admitted that the NBA is not for them, Harris continued to hone his craft and do everything necessary to get reinstated. Ahead of his third season of pro ball, the former Raptors backup has found a home with an Atlantic Division rival.
Harris signed a deal with the New York Knicks, who needed one more young gunner to complete their roster before the preseason gets going. This comes days after the Knicks signed Svi Mykhailiuk from last year’s Raptors team.
Harris won’t be back in Toronto, but someone was willing to give him another shot at sticking in the NBA with a team that has eyes on winning.
Toronto Raptors: Jalen Harris is a Knicks player now.
Harris didn’t get much playing time in Toronto, as he needed to wait until the end of the season to really flex his talents. Harris averaged 7.4 points per game on 50/47/78 shooting percentages, including a 30-point outburst in one of the final games of the year against Dallas.
When Harris was suspended, he spent 2021-22 with Vanoli Cremona in Italy. After a stint across the Atlantic, Harris briefly returned to Canada and suited up for the Scarborough Shooting Stars. Harris will try to make the Knicks’ roster with his best basketball in the windshield, not the rear-view mirror.
While there are questions about his defensive ability, even his brief stints with the Raptors showed that there is more than enough to work with as an offensive bucket-getter. He might be a better long-term option than Mykhailiuk if the Knicks feel they can only keep one of those two.
Harris will not be a huge needle-mover for the Knicks, but he can definitely contribute to winning basketball. The fact that he’s checked all the boxes he needed to return to the league, on and off the court, deserves a hearty congratulations.