(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
Kentucky outlasted Ole Miss in overtime on Tuesday, remaining undefeated as it opened its conference schedule. Aaron Harrison stood out with a 26-point performance to lead the Wildcats. The least heralded of the twins has developed into a better player than his brother but there are concerns regarding his transition to the pro level and his draft stock has consistently declined since he enrolled at Lexington.
Harrison’s top skill is his shooting. As we’ve seen in Kentucky’s run to the national championship game last season, he’s a capable shot maker from anywhere on the floor. But throughout his college career, Harrison has not posted impressive percentages. He doesn’t have a particularly quick release but gets good elevation off the ground and has tight mechanics; keeping his off-arm pointed up and flicking his wrist naturally.
The ball just doesn’t go in as often as it should, perhaps because he has a small habit of kicking with the right leg at times, which disrupts his otherwise perfect balance, or because Kentucky struggles to generate many good looks out of its non-structured offense. He’s hit just 30.7 percent of 75 three-point attempts this season, after converting a very average 35.6 percent of his 174 such shots last season.
Harrison doesn’t do much ball-handling on this team, with his brother or Tyler Ulis usually monopolizing possession. Once in a while he gets the chance to run a pick-and-roll and has flashed the ability to hit big men in stride through the pocket pass but it’s almost impossible to tell how developed that skill is given how little he’s had the chance to flaunt it.
Harrison is mostly only tasked with shot creation when the opponent forces him out of shooting position and he must put the ball on the floor. He’s proven capable of getting to the rim on straight line drives by using his frame to protect the ball and absorbing contact at the rim. Harrison doesn’t attack the basket with much speed and will at times do it without a plan but has managed to finish well against length at the college level, converting 67.4 percent of his 129 shots at the rim on 54 appearances, according to Hoop Math. He also drew shooting fouls at a high rate last season.
Harrison does not successfully get to the rim all that frequently, though. He has a good handle and is able to drive with his off-hand as well but does not have an explosive first step and struggles to get separation off the bounce. Only a fifth of his shots have been taken at the rim, yet it’s important to keep in mind Kentucky struggle to generate driving lanes since Harrison often shares the floor with Willie-Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles and his brother; a group with no shooters around him.
He will look to pass on the move and has shown decent instincts passing out of dribble penetration and in transition, assisting on 16 percent of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been on the floor, according to Basketball Reference. But, often seeing a crowd in front of him, he’s more likely to set himself up for mid-range pull-up attempts. Due to his inability to shake defenders off balance, these shots are often well contested. Harrison has a high point in his release due to his height and the elevation he gets, but these tend to be low percentage shots. He’s hit just a third of 140 two-point jump-shots last season and has converted just 11 of his 42 such attempts this season.
Harrison has exhibited more quickness on defense but mostly manages to defend well in isolation by containing dribble penetration through contact, thanks to the strength in his 212-pound frame. That strength has also helped him contribute on the boards when needed by boxing out bigger players. He doesn’t seem suited to guard point guards at the moment, poorly navigating through ball-screens due to his tendency to lean into the opposing big man. His six-foot-eight wingspan permits him to contest perimeter shots well but Harrison lacks the closing speed to effectively disrupt spot-up looks.
Harrison is an imperfect prospect (they all are) but I lean towards thinking he’s not as limited as his statistical profile suggests. Kentucky simply doesn’t provide him the best context to showcase the strengths in his skill-set.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.