The following is a guest post by Teru Ikeda. He is a Japanese-Canadian freelance writer and FIBA agent.
Kevon Harris, standing six foot six, is built like an NBA player.
After a very brief stint playing for KK Zadar in Croatia, Harris spent his first season with the Raptors 905 sequestered in the NBA Bubble. Though the 2021-22 season started with fans in the stands and some semblance of normality, we were back in lockdown soon enough, leaving Harris toiling away, this time south of the 401, in Sauga.
He’s been proving himself in front of mostly his coaching staff and ensuring opposing teams don’t leave him off their scouting report. While Raptors assignees like Isaac Bonga, Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton, Yuta Watanabe and Justin Champagnie, and two-way player David Johnson have played for the parent team, Harris has never been called up and has been grinding away for $35,000 per annum for the past two seasons.
Harris is, however, averaging more points per game (14.9) than Champagnie (14.8) and Bonga (13.5). Although Harris is already 24 years old, he is accustomed to being an underdog his whole basketball career. His most notable game in his senior season came when his Stephen F. Austin team took down then No. 1-ranked Duke at Cameron Stadium with an overtime buzzer-beater. Harris led all scorers with 26 points that game.
Harris can still flat out score – beyond the arc, driving the lane, or in transition. At the G League, he’s shown that he loves when the stage is set. He rises to the occasion, making clutch shots late down the stretch. He’s also versatile – a Swiss army knife that can do a little bit of everything.
When I asked Coach Mutombo about Harris’ growth in the regular season after the Showcase Cup, Mutombo said, “He’s a witness to our culture. He’s a witness to how we want to play, what our ideal is, what our principles are, the values we hold.
Just like every other player, sometimes he adheres to those and sometimes he doesn’t, but I think his growth is showing. Every game, he’s settling a little bit more. He’s not as erratic and he makes good decisions.”
Mutombo added that Harris was not merely a scorer and hoped others were recognizing that. “And I hope what people are noticing is that he guards. He keeps people in front of him and just doesn’t get beaten and then he rebounds the basketball. And we all know he can score but that part of the game, I hope people are noticing.”
Before we dive into this report, I wanted to make one quick note about the methodology I employed. I went through seven Showcase Cup games and five regular season games where the 905 have had no NBA players. One exception exists in David Johnson, who I excluded, because he has only played two NBA games this season. In these games, Harris and his teammates had to rely more on themselves and each other, and these games more accurately put Harris and his teammates to the test. Against the Maine Celtics, the 905 had Bonga and Banton on the first night, and Bonga and Flynn on the second. The Lakeland Magic had no assignees or two-way players when the 905 played them, but all other teams have had assignees or two-way players.
As stated above, Harris lives for big moments. The Motor City Cruise came in with two-way Jamorko Pickett and assignees Luka Garza, Saben Lee, and Cassius Stanley (who played at Duke when Harris’ SFA pulled an upset victory against them). Harris hit a shot to force the Motor City game into overtime. In OT, he hit a key three-pointer to push the 905 lead up to 120-115.
Harris scores in crucial stretches of the game, keeping his team competitive or widening leads. In the first game against Lakeland, Harris hit two free throws to tie the game at 82 apiece with 1:47 left in the game. In the second game of a back-to-back, he made a bucket in transition after missing his free throw on the previous possession. With 4:19 left in the game, he put the 905 ahead 97-90. When Lakeland answered with a deuce, he answered with a three. Harris finished the game with 18 points, 12 rebounds and two assists.
Against Delaware, he hit a triple in the third quarter to close the Motor City lead 77-69 and forced them to take a timeout. He then sprinted the length of the court and flushed down a two-handed dunk in transition, riling up the 905 bench and forcing them to their feet. Down nine points heading towards the end of the third quarter, Harris backed his defender down, outmuscled him and got an easy bucket inside the paint.
Harris is hitting over 40 percent of his threes on the season with the 905, and he can hit threes in multiple ways: catch-and-shoot, step-backs, and off-the-dribble. He loves being the triggerman when the game matters most. He hit an important catch-and-shoot three against Delaware to inch within four points in the third quarter, and had a step-back three to make it 76 apiece, beating the shot clock. In the fourth quarter, he hit another three off the dribble to give the 905 a one-point lead 92-91. To contextualize, this was the second night of a back-to-back, having lost the previous night to Delaware 120-94. On the second night, the 905 were trailing by nine at halftime, 65-56, so Harris played a key role in keeping this game close. Over two games against Lakeland, he shot 6-for-11 beyond the arc. Against Motor City, he hit a clutch shot to force overtime and proceeded to hit a huge three in overtime that helped the 905 win.
Kevon can attack off the catch or off the dribble and use the screener to his advantage. He holds the line on his drives and relentlessly attacks the hoop. His creative ball-handling skills, such as his retreat dribble, also allow him to create lane penetration easily. Like his three-point shooting, Harris finishes drives in pivotal moments. Against Delaware, he had a strong drive off a steal and finished, putting the 905 within three in the third quarter. He later got a bucket off his dribble, putting the 905 within three, 89-86, in the final frame.
Good offense begins with good defense. Harris’ defensive tenacity and athleticism makes him able to help create more plays in transition as well as finish them. He is able to get easy buckets in transition either on or off the ball. He is fearless driving against a big like Brooklyn’s Kessler Edwards, and even when Harris misses, he generates offensive opportunities for others. Against Motor City, Harris is equally effective attacking off a catch in transition as he is in a half-court offensive set.
Though Kevon can score easily, he is a willing passer and playmaker off the drive and in transition. Because he can so easily get to the hoop, he is able to create for his teammates. Off the pick-and-roll, he probes and looks for the best scoring options. He will prioritize passing the ball behind the arc instead of shooting a mid-range jumper. In the clip below against the Windy City Bulls, he passed to a cutting Reggie Perry instead of taking his own short-range jumper.
Harris has shown himself able to hold his ground against 6-foot-11 bigs. Here, he doesn’t allow Day’Ron Sharpe, who has logged 373 total NBA minutes this season, to easily post him up. Against Chicago Bulls assignee Marko Simonovic, Harris had no issue boxing out. Harris is great at denying the ball, demonstrating this against Maine’s Theo Pinson by not allowing him to get the ball where he wanted. Harris cut off Pinson’s option to drive the lane, forcing him to make passes.
Harris also shows lateral quickness. Even when he is on an opponent’s hip, he can recover quick enough for the help defense to arrive. He recovered after being beaten by Maine’s Brodric Thomas and Lakeland’s BJ Armstrong and forced Delaware’s Shaquille Harrison to miss the three.
Off the ball, Kevon demonstrates great defensive awareness. He stole the ball out of Delaware’s transition and took a charge on the defensive end right after hitting a three-point shot with 4:31 left. This put the 905 up 113-105 – again, making clutch plays on both ends of the floor.
On closeouts, Harris can at times be either a little too aggressive or a step too slow. Offensively, he doesn’t always pass into the right pocket on kickouts. He nearly threw the ball out of bounds in the clip below, and his passes to Jodie Meeks and to the corner three were not in optimal shooting pockets. These plays indicate some of the “erratic” plays Harris makes at times.
The only 905 players who have gotten called up to the parent team so far are assignees and two-way players. Mississauga is, however, the global capital of NBA talent development, and the 905 are preparing players like Harris to take flight in their basketball careers. East of Pearson and south of the 401, Harris continues to grind in the G League, but he’s been an underdog his whole career and has pulled off upsets before.
Harris possesses NBA-level athleticism, is a versatile scorer and gets his teammates involved. He can play both sides of the ball, and the Raptors could use a six-foot-six scoring wing with deft shooting touch right now. A niche role could be carved out for Harris, complementing Siakam and Barnes — big initiators with size who could use more shooting flanking them. The odds of Harris receiving a call up may be low, but we shouldn’t count out the possibility of him putting on a Toronto uniform.