Welcome to the 2020 Hornets Free Agent Forum where each week I will profile a potential 2020 free agent target for the Charlotte Hornets. Most of the players I’ll highlight will be unrestricted free agents (list here) whose ages and skill sets fit nicely with a young, up-and-coming Hornets roster. Feel free to engage in the comments because what makes free agency so fun to debate is it’s not just about the player, it’s also about roster construction, cap usage, and culture.
Player: Harry Giles III, PF/C
Standing reach: 9’1.5”
2020 stats: 14.5 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.4 BPG, 55.4% FG
Estimated market value: $4-6 million (Kings declined his $3.97 million fourth-year option)
Harry Giles III checks a lot of boxes for the Charlotte Hornets: he’s young with upside, plays in the post, and won’t break the bank. Throw in the fact that he’s from Winston-Salem (his dad played basketball and football for Winston-Salem State) and there are plenty of reasons for Hornets fans to get on the Giles bandwagon, but there are several red flags, too.
Giles was the No. 20 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and sat out his entire rookie season to rehab from multiple previous ACL injuries. In two seasons with the Sacramento Kings he appeared in 104 games (17 starts) and averaged an unspectacular 14.3 minutes, 7.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and around one-half steals and blocks per game.
The 6’11” big man is a solid post scorer. His shooting percentage was an impressive 55.4% from the field and 77.6% free throw mark in 2019-20. Nearly 70% of his field goal attempts have come from within 10 feet of the hoop and he almost never attempts three-pointers, so he doesn’t stretch the floor. But when he goes to work in the post the results are very good as evidenced by his shot chart:
In addition to his efficient post scoring, Giles sees the court well and has proven to be an effective passer. In his brief career he has averaged solid 3.5 assists on a per-36 minute basis.
After playing inconsistently for most of the 2019-20 season, he started getting more regular minutes starting in late February. He scored in double figures in seven straight starts between February 22nd and March 5th but the regular season was suspended shortly thereafter. Upon the NBA’s return to the bubble he had 23 points (on 9-of-11 shooting) and eight rebounds in an impressive outing against the Orlando Magic. In the Kings second to last game of the season he put up a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double with three assists and two blocks.
But there are red flags about Giles, too.
First, his defensive metrics were abysmal last season. ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus ranked Giles second to last among centers - 71st of 72 players - at a -2.76. Other stats tell the same story. NBA Stats ranks Giles second worst in defensive field goal percentage among centers - 70th of 71 - at 72.4%. Based on these two metrics, Giles was arguably the worst defensive center in the league last season.
After investing the No. 20 pick in him the Kings decided against picking up his fourth-year option for just $3.97 million, which is a huge concern coming from a rebuilding team. General manager Vlade Divac said one of the reasons the team declined the option is Giles showed up out of shape to begin the season.
But then again, the Kings are one of the most incompetent teams in the league. Good teams generally do the opposite of what Sacramento does. Giles is still just 22 years old. There aren’t many players his age with Per-36 minute career averages of 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists who enter unrestricted free agency.
At somewhere between $4-$6 million per year, he could be a low-risk flier for a team like the Hornets. They have the cap space. They need to improve their post play. Perhaps after leaving the incompetence of Sacramento the former Duke Blue Devil can blossom elsewhere. At just 22 years old he’s actually one month younger than Obi Toppin who is projected to be one of the top picks in the upcoming draft, so there’s still plenty of time for him to develop his game. If the Hornets front office thinks they can leverage his strengths while refining his flaws, he could be a smart addition to the roster.