Kings' Harry Giles Thrilled He Survived Rookie Season Without Setbacks

SACRAMENTO -- The wait was unbearable. The early returns were rough. The final outcome was impressive.

After redshirting his rookie season, Kings forward Harry Giles showed a mixture of rust and brilliance in his official NBA rookie season. A late season quad injury shut him down early, but the sample size was enough to sketch an outline of what might be.

More important than the stats, Giles survived close to a full season of NBA basketball without a single setback to his surgically repaired knees. He's still experiencing stiffness in his left leg, but it's a temporary situation that shouldn't impede his summer workout program.

"I'm walking out on two legs feeling good," Giles told NBC Sports California on Tuesday evening. "I feel amazing. I came a long way. I got to play 58 games under my belt. I walked off the court every time, even when I had a contusion, I walked off the court."

Walking off the court on his own terms is a tremendous accomplishment for the 20-year-old big. A series of knee injuries as a prep athlete stole close to three years from one of the nation's top prospects.

After selecting Giles with the No. 20 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Kings medical and training staff worked tirelessly last season to strengthen and build the former Duke standout.

It was a difficult year of sitting and watching others play and grow on the court. But if Giles hopes to play for a decade or more in the league, it was the right decision for both the player and the franchise.

Stepping on an NBA court was a huge accomplishment in itself for Giles. The fact that he played 58 games as a rookie gives hope for the future. Realistically, he could have played more early in the season, but with the team winning, he needed time to digest the NBA game.

Through the first half of the season, Giles sat out 13 games as a healthy scratch. The Kings sent the 6-foot-10 center to the G League twice to get him more playing time. Following the second trip, Giles looked like the game had suddenly slowed down for him.

"He needs to get out on the floor, he hasn't played in a couple of years," coach Dave Joerger said of Giles. "Finding a rhythm with the speed of the NBA game, settling into a position - is he a 4, is he a 5 - things that I'm looking for to evaluate where I should use him."

Joerger was clear that the evaluation process would run into next year at least for Giles, in the same way that it will for fellow rookie Marvin Bagley.

Giles made major strides in his game from start to finish. He knows he needs to get stronger and extend his range. And he's going to get a laundry list of things to work on from the Kings as he enters his first real offseason as an NBA player. The team's training staff will be right alongside him everyday.

"I don't think it takes 82 games to figure out what you need to improve on, I knew that in the first half of the season," Giles said. "In the second half, I got more confidence and kinda got better and approached it in a different way."

There is no question that Giles showed improvement, but the Kings were in no hurry to push him. He sat out all but the opening game of his senior year in high school, played 300 total minutes with the Blue Devils and then sat out all of last season. Running him out on the court for major rotational minutes in Year One may have risked a major setback.

He managed to play 820 minutes this season with Sacramento and there were times when his play on the court demanded a longer look. He finished the year averaging seven points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 14.1 minutes per game.

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With both Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos set to enter free agency, there is a possibility that there will be plenty more minutes on the frontline for Giles next season.

According to Joerger, there is also a chance that Giles makes an appearance for the team's summer league team in July. It would be another opportunity for him to get live game action.

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