Let’s be real honest here.
Andrew Harrison improved quite a bit in his second full season with the Grizzlies. His awareness on offense was much improved over the previous campaign. Andrew just looked more confident all-around on the court. Just don’t look for impressive numbers with Harrison.
There isn’t much out there to support it. With Andrew, a lot of it is the “Eye Test.” On the NBA.com stats pages, if you sort stats by guards that played more than 15+ minutes a game, Andrew isn’t in the top 100 out of 186 guards in most categories. Now, a lot of this can be blamed on the fact that the rest of the Grizzlies struggled last season, so you’ll naturally find a lot of the Grizzlies low on a lot of statistical lists...except for the now-departed Tyreke Evans, who pops up in the top 50 of a few stat categories.
This season will say a lot for Andrew in regards to his future in the league. Due to be a free agent this summer, and with several other guards on the team, Andrew will need to make his case early and often to show why he deserves to be high in the rotation.
Andrew had the better of his two seasons in the league last year, for sure. Across the board, his offensive numbers were better. He had an extended chance to be on the floor with the injury to Mike Conley, and made the most of it. As stated above, the difference between last season and his first season are day and night. More often than not, Andrew was where he was supposed to be on the court, with and without the ball. He looked more confident in passing situations, and took a lot less chances distributing the ball. The common play we all saw too many times, was the drive-into-traffic-and-attempt-a-layup-because-I-can’t-find-anyone-to-pass-to. Yes, that still popped up occasionally but not nearly as often as in 2016-2017.
Out of the gate, based on experience with this team over Shelvin Mack and the injury to Jevon Carter, you’d have to think Andrew will get the first crack at being Conley’s backup during training camp. The length of time Jevon misses, and Mack’s learning curve with the team will have a lot to say in whether Andrew stays in that backup role much past the opening parts of the season.
The only way Andrew can look to have a higher role with the team is through injury. Which with Mike Conley and Jevon Carter working their way back to full strength, it’s entirely possible that Andrew could end up with some extra minutes early in the season.
2018-2019 Best Case Scenario
Andrew keeps building on the improvements to his game in 2017-2018. On offensive he becomes more of a floor general, facilitating the offense of the more proficient scorers on the bench, while his own field goal percentage moves up to around 45%-48% and his three point percentage jumps up to closer to 40%. Defensively, he improves his personal foul stats to average closer to 1.5 fouls per game and bumps up his steals to closer to 2 a game.
Jevon Carter spends most of his first season in Southaven. Shelvin Mack isn’t quite what they thought they were getting, and moves down the depth chart behind Andrew. Which is where for this season at least, Andrew cements himself as the backup to Mike Conley. In the end, the Grizzlies extend Harrison’s contract, keeping him with the team long-term.
2018-2019 Worst Case Scenario
It’s going to come down to a few scenarios that will potentially doom Andrew Harrison. Brandon Goodwin, health, and the other guards.
If Goodwin sets the world on fire in training camp, its definitely possible the Grizzlies move Andrew or possibly even cut him to make room for Goodwin on the roster. Andrew has a lot to lose if Goodwin or Markel Crawford have good camps and/or good starts to the season with the Hustle, assuming of course that Goodwin and Crawford end up in Southaven.
It’s also no secret that Andrew, like most Grizzlies guards as of late, has had trouble staying on the floor. Andrew missed 26 games last year with shoulder and wrist issues, including the final 8 games. More than ever, Harrison has to be on the floor to stand a chance against the deep point guard ranks of the Grizzlies.
Speaking of the other point guards, Andrew has to be better than at least 2 other point guards just to be the backup. Now we don’t know what we have in Mack or Carter for sure, and there’s the Goodwin/Crawford issue I mentioned above that could derail Harrison’s season.
This will be the biggest test of Andrew Harrison’s NBA career thus far. Think about this for a second - Andrew could show up in camp, in better shape than he’s ever been. Shoots the ball better than ever. Defends better than ever.
Ends up 4th on the depth chart.
Or in Southaven.
Or cut by the end of camp.
Andrew has done everything that’s been asked of him in his time with the team. He went to Iowa and worked on his game and earned a spot on the roster. He struggled in his first season in the league in a limited role. Then last season he stepped into an unenviable position of trying to replace Mike Conley.
While he hasn’t been immensely successful, he’s been okay. Which should be good enough to keep him on the roster.
It may not be enough.
The phrase “timing is everything” is all too real for Andrew right now. Andrew’s in the last year of his deal and would be a restricted free agent this summer, which the Grizzlies could look at two ways. Depending on the rest of the roster, they can put out a qualifying offer to give them one more year to see what Andrew can do. Or, they can just let him walk and deem the whole process with him over and a failure, which Chris Wallace doesn’t usually do very easily with players he has spent a lot of time on until it’s far too late.
In the end, it’s entirely possible that Andrew Harrison’s best may not be good enough to keep him with this team.