Aaron Harrison might not even make the roster. That's the tone the Charlotte Hornets set this offseason after filling up their roster to 18 players before training camp. The team gave Harrison a partially guaranteed contract following Orlando Summer League, but it's clear that they're willing to cut ties with him if he doesn't impress in training camp.
However, this doesn't mean that Harrison has no chances of making the roster. In fact, of the three players battling it out for that final roster spot he is probably the player with the best chance at making the roster. He already has experience with assistant coach Patrick Ewing, and Steve Clifford saw plenty of him while attending OSL. The question is will he be good enough against NBA level talent to repeat that performance.
Harrison spent his final year at Kentucky on a historically great team. The Wildcats went undefeated throughout the regular season, and conference tournament, and then made it all the way to the Final Four. It wasn't until a run in with Frank Kaminsky's Wisconsin did Kentucky finally lose their first game. Harrison, while not the most important player on the team, played a large role as one of the starting guards on the undefeated Kentucky squad. He averaged 11 points per game, but shot poorly from the floor. He shot less than 40 percent from the field, less than 50 percent on two pointers, and only 31 percent from 3-point range. His greatest skills for Kentucky was his ability to put the ball on the floor, and occasionally get hot from deep. However, without a jumpshot, he struggled to score consistently, and it's pretty clear why he went undrafted. Harrison was a shoot first guard in college, and that made him not very good at playing his role considering he couldn't score.
The most obvious area Harrison needs to improve in his jumpshot, or at least his shot selection. His final year at Kentucky was such a horrid display of shooting that it's amazing he was still the starter by the time the Final Four rolled around. Harrison was notorious for taking ill advised shots instead of giving it to Karl Antony-Towns, and that's just not going to fly in the NBA. Luckily, Harrison is aware of his situation entering the NBA, and he should know that he needs to take smarter shots.
For example, Harrison displayed a commitment to getting to the rim during summer league. Whenever he had the ball in his hands his first scoring option was to get to the rim, and use his superior athleticism to finish there. The problem with this is that doing that in summer league is much easier when a player is just so much more athletic than everybody else. Especially when in reality those games are just glorified pick up ball with no real system defense. Against actual NBA players, with a real defensive system, Harrison won't be finding his way to the rim so easily.
However, Harrison choosing to go to the rim, where he's more effective, shows smart decision making. An area that he'll need to continue improving on if he's going to be an NBA player, because at the moment he has very little to no NBA skills. There's potential for him to improve, but Harrison is definitely a project at the moment.
Harrison is switching to Point Guard
The biggest news about Aaron Harrison from Orlando Summer League, was that the team wanted to change him into a point guard. Spending the majority of his time in college playing as a wing player, or a traditional shooting guard, Harrison didn't do much initiating of the offense at Kentucky. In Orlando however he took on the role with enthusiasm, and was completely prepared to do what needed to be done. The result was a solid performance across the board, and enough to turn heads from everybody that was watching him. The general consensus among media at OSL was that he deserved a training camp invite, and it came as no surprise to anyone when he finally did.
Where the switch to PG benefits Harrison the most is that he's able to play in a way where he can be successful, and that's with the ball in his hands. His ability off ball, even in summer league, was clearly lacking. This will also help mask some of his poor shooting, because he'll be more focused on distributing than looking for his own shot.
The biggest question will be how it impacts Harrison's ability as a defender. In college he wasn't considered a bad defender, but it certainly was not one of his calling cards. There's a natural advantage here thanks to a lengthy wingspan that Harrison can use against smaller guards across the NBA, and his athleticism could make him a real pest against opposing ball handlers. The skills appear to be there, but until he learns how to play NBA defense it doesn't really benefit him all that much.
The expectations for Harrison this season are low. He's not a guarantee to make the roster, and even if he does he'll be the fourth PG on the roster behind Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin, and Brian Roberts. It's unlikely he'll get much, if any, playing time his rookie season. That said, Harrison's goal right now is to just make the NBA, and a halfway decent training camp stint should be all he needs.
Expect Aaron Harrison to make the roster, but don't expect much from him when games start to count.