About a year ago, Duke freshman big man Harry Giles was likely the favorite as the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. But he suffered second torn ACL in November 2015 — this time in his right knee — that has him in rehab as the season nears.
Giles previously tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee in Uruguay for the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. He spent two years trying to get back to the same athletic marvel he was before the injury. Giles looked 100 percent in his biggest action since returning from his first major injury after helping the U-19 FIBA USA Basketball Team win gold at the World Championship in Greece.
One NBA scout called Giles “the most exciting young prospect” in the 2015 World Championships. Giles, at 17 years old, was third in the tournament in points per 40 minutes (26.4), second in offensive rebound percentage (17.1 percent) and first in defensive rebounding percentage (28.7 percent). He showed off the athleticism, two-way versatility and size while averaging 14 points and 10.6 rebounds. That had people excited about his potential before the first major knee injury.
But then Giles had the second major injury scare of his young career. He was just two minutes into his senior season after transferring to prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy before suffering the ACL tear in his right knee. It was a big blow to his NBA Draft stock, and a press of the reset button for the second time.
Before the injury, ESPN ranked him as the top senior overall in a deep and talented 2016 class. DraftExpress had projected him as the first overall pick in 2017. Soon after his injury, he committed to Duke, joining his self-described “best friend” and potential top pick Jayson Tatum, over finalists of Kansas, Kentucky and Wake Forest. Giles has been working hard and staying positive as he works to get back on the court.
“For me, really just staying positive…I’m going through a hard time, at the same time, I’m trying to get back on the court with my injury,” Giles said on assistant coach Jon Scheyer’s podcast earlier this month. “I’m really just staying positive. Some of the drills I’ll do with the team, but at a certain point, I have stop because I can’t do everything yet.”
What makes Giles so impressive as an NBA prospect?
When healthy, he is a near 6-foot-11 big man with breathtaking athleticism, lateral quickness and a budding offensive repertoire. He has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 9-foot-1 standing reach. When paired with his athletic qualities, he has the ability to dominate on the defensive side of the court.
Giles shows flashes of stretch potential and playmaking ability, but still needs to work on his prowess in the post and gain more overall offensive consistency to reach his potential. He’s also lost nearly 10 pounds since his last November (down to 222), and must focus on adding that weight back as he returns to full strength.
Giles is now one of the biggest question marks surrounding the 2017 draft. His upside certainly warrants a top-three selection, but with stiff competition from fully-healthy prospects like Tatum, Josh Jackson, Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith, it might be tough for teams to take that risk.
Giles certainly has the look and talent of a franchise-changing big man, but it’ll likely take some time for him to ease back into live game action. His situation is certainly worth monitoring as he continues to make his way back, and only time will tell how well he recovers this time.
If Giles is able to make his way back to 100 percent as the season goes on, it’s possible he can find his way back at the top of mock drafts like he was about 12 months ago.