The Secret Is Out: Harry Giles Has Arrived

Have you heard about Harry Giles?

Sacramento Kings big man Harry Giles is set to make the 2018-19 NBA season his coming out party.  

His NBA debut this past week marks the end of a long road to recovery for the talented big man in Sacramento. Giles spent the entirety of last season in a suit behind the Kings bench, recovering from a history of brutal injuries. The reports are that the Kings training staff has done a phenomenal job with his rehabilitation, and that he is now fully healthy and ready to contribute meaningful minutes for Sacramento this season. 

The road was a long one. The injuries started during Giles’ sophomore year of high school, when he tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee. Two years later, in the opening game of his senior season at Oak Hill Academy, he tore the ACL in his other knee. Still, Harry Giles was rated as a five-star recruit. ESPN had him ranked as the #1 overall player of the 2016 class, while Rivals and ranked him behind only Josh Jackson. By then, Giles had long been committed to playing for Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils.

“Play” would be quite the overstatement. 

Harry Giles was required to have yet another knee surgery when he arrived Durham. Though it was a minor arthroscopic procedure, it was his third operation in three years, all before his 19th birthday. He wouldn’t make his collegiate debut until mid-December of his Freshman year, and played sparingly the rest of the way. In 26 appearances, Giles played 300 total minutes (11.5 per game) and averaged just shy of four points and four rebounds per game. 

He was an interesting draft prospect. An exceptionally gifted athlete, he was arguably the best big man prospect in the draft. But, none of that mattered unless Giles was healthy. NBA teams tend to waver at the thought of spending first-round draft picks on big men with surgically repaired knees, and do so even more for a kid with three operations under his belt. 

And so Harry Giles fell. He fell all the way to the 20th spot on the draft board, where he was selected by the Sacramento Kings, who were making their third selection of the night. If you look back on that draft, you’ll see that Giles was technically selected by the Portland Trailblazers. The Blazers owned the 15th (Justin Jackson) and 20th (Giles) overall picks, which they traded to Sacramento in exchange for the 10th (Zach Collins) overall pick (which the Kings had acquired in the DeMarcus Cousins deal). 

Since the Kings were able to spend two other first round picks on players that could contribute immediately, drafting Harry Giles was a luxury, not a need. Sacramento stashed him away, developing the rest of its young core while eyeing the 2018-19 season for Giles’ debut.  

The 2018-19 season is here, and the rest of the NBA is starting to notice Harry Giles. 

Much of the hype began during a Bill Simmons podcast in late August. The guest on the show that day was Jayson Tatum, who was asked about the toughest competition he faced in high school. Tatum responded without skipping a beat. “Harry Giles. He was by far the best player in our grade. You can ask anybody in our class. Harry was the only player that I would have said in high school like, ‘Yeah, he might be better than me.’” Tatum continues, “Our senior year, he didn’t play one game and was still ranked number one. That just shows you that he was the man in high school.”

Okay, let's take it with a grain of salt. Tatum and Giles are great friends and played together at Duke. Of course he’s going to show some love to his boy. But Tatum is quick to mention Giles’ name over the others in his class like Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith Jr. 

Some of the praise must have influenced Bill Simmons, a notoriously harsh critic of the Kings and their incompetent front office. His tweet on October 9th referred to Giles as “the NBA’s best story” and shockingly gave praise to Vlade Divac for the very first (and probably very last) time.

Even Deadspin has seemingly hopped on the Harry Giles bandwagon. One of their posts last week was titled “The Sacramento Kings Are Going To Be Apocalyptically Bad, But Harry Giles Will Be Fun.” For a Kings fan, the article is bittersweet. Giles is just one of the many Kings who has a boatload of raw potential, though it is very unlikely that it will all come together this early in the process. Sacramento figures to be one of, if not the worst team in the NBA this season. 

All of this Giles hype is nothing new to Kings fans. The team’s respective fan base on both Twitter and Reddit has been, as they call themselves, “H4H”, which means Happy 4 Harry, except happy is replaced by a word that Austin Powers loves to say. Giles is viewed as one of the significant pieces of the Kings rebuild and future along with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. 

Sacramento Kings fans will sing the praises of Harry Giles until they are blue in the face. They might as well. There won’t be much else to praise in the California capital this season. 

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