Aaron Harrison enters the NBA with low expectations. Despite coming out of a big time school in Kentucky, and helping his Wildcats to an NCAA Final Four appearance, Harrison went undrafted due to a very minimal NBA skillset. As a wing, his inconsistent jumpshot punished him, and it was a large part of what caused the Hornets to move Harrison to point guard, during Orlando Summer League. For many players this would ruin their confidence, but the challenge didn't phase Harrison at all.
"There's just things you gotta go through. I'm just trying to get in where I fit in. Coaches want me to play the point guard. I'll just play the point guard and play as hard as I can."
"He's a very confident player." said Patrick Ewing following a Hornets win. "He's playing a little bit out of position cause he's more of a two guard. If he's gonna make an NBA roster the position he'll have to play is the point. But I think he's done a fantastic job. He's running the ball club, he's taking his shots when he has it, but he's also sharing it with other guys on the team."
Ewing was certainly right when saying that Harrison played well at point guard. Despite having never played it before, he seemed to fit in just fine with the ball in his hands. It allowed Harrison to focus less on shooting, and more on what he's really good at. Driving to the basket, creating contact, and finishing at the rim. Throughout summer league, this was his greatest skill, and it's what managed to grab him a contract shortly after summer league was finished.
Now, with a contract, Harrison has a new challenge. As an undrafted rookie he has to overcome odds that he won't last very long as NBA player, or really make any impact at all. Players like him usually sign on to a team, don't get an opportunity to play, and are eventually replaced with better talent. That's the common story, and Harrison will need to do every little thing he can if he's gonna stick in this league. Luckily for him, he's already shown a willingness to do that when he openly switched to point guard.
"There's just things you gotta go through. I'm just trying to get in where I fit in. Coaches want me to play the point guard I'll just play the point guard and play as hard as I can."
This is what will separate Harrison from the average undrafted rookie. Many players say they're willing to change, but don't actually put in the work to do so. Harrison on the other hand is already making strides towards making himself more suitable for an NBA team.
That said, just cause someone's willing to change doesn't mean they're a good enough player to do it. Harrison still has faults that are going to stand in his way as he tries to make his way to the NBA. For example, he still lacks a consistent jumpshot, and his passing is nothing to write home about. These are areas he can improve on, but it will take time, and are the Hornets willing to put in that time?
If Harrison is going to make the NBA in the short term, and perhaps find playing time under Steve Clifford, then he will need to show that he's an NBA capable defender. At the moment, he's merely average, but he did manage to impress Patrick Ewing during summer league.
"He's doing a pretty good job. He's moving. He's still learning the scheme the way we like to do things. But for the most part he's doing a fantastic job. He does a pretty good job guarding the ball. Even though sometimes he makes some mistakes. He's not the kind of defender that's gonna get up in to you and hawk you, but he has long arms and pretty good quickness to be able to stay with the ball handler."
On top of this, Harrison himself understands that he needs to play well on that end if he's gonna make it at this level.
"I need to do that to be on the floor. Play defense. Get hustle plays like that. I enjoy doing that as well."
He has the mindset, and he's talking the talk, but the NBA isn't a storybook. Aaron Harrison has been give a chance to become that narrative, but whether he does or not depends entirely on if he can improve. If he can, then he might be put in the category of Patrick Beverley, John Starks, and players that worked as hard as they could to make it in the NBA, and become big names. It's what everybody wants players like him to become, but the odds are against him.