Knicks two-way guard Jared Harper has shifted his focus to the rest of the 2020/21 NBA season after an impressive stint in the G League bubble, one that earned him an honor few players obtain: a spot on the All-NBA G League First Team.
Harper, a 5’10” point guard who went unselected in the 2019 draft, spent part of last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix before being claimed off waivers by New York in June. After signing a new two-way deal with the Knicks in the offseason, the 23-year-old has seen limited action at the NBA level, but he excelled in the G League with Westchester and is enjoying his time on an NBA roster.
“It’s definitely been a great experience,” Harper told Hoops Rumors in a phone interview. “For one, just being able to be in the NBA. Two, being with an organization as storied as the Knicks and all that goes along with it. Just the opportunity of making history. We’re trying to make a push to continue to stay in the playoff race and go from there. I think there are a lot of positives in this situation.”
In 12 G League contests this season, Harper increased his averages nearly across the board, recording 21.3 points (up from 20.2) and 7.0 assists (up from 5.5) per game. His shooting also improved, going from .413/.362/.787 as an NBAGL rookie to .473/.403/.854 in his second year.
“I just think that next year (helped),” Harper said. “Last year I was able to learn a lot just by playing professional basketball on the fly, even though I was able to play well. But coming into this year, I saw areas that I needed to improve to help me be more efficient — passing the ball, or even scoring.
“Better yet, just trying to win more games. So I think I just took what I did well last year and tried to perfect those things. Plus the things I didn’t do as well, I tried to make better, so everything overall would come together.”
Along with Harper, the G League First Team consisted of Kevin Porter Jr., Mamadi Diakite, Moses Brown, and MVP Paul Reed — all players who are on standard NBA contracts or two-way deals. Every member of the Second Team and Third Team is also under contract with an NBA team or has previous NBA experience. The overall talent level in the bubble made his spot on the First Team this season even more special, Harper said.
“It’s definitely great just knowing how much talent was down in the G League bubble this year,” he explained. “To be recognized as one of the top players down there is just helping me get closer to my goal of being able to play on an NBA court.”
The Knicks have exceeded expectations under head coach Tom Thibodeau this season and currently hold the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 25-27. The team is just two games behind the fourth-seeded Hornets and could make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Harper hasn’t received many chances on the court to contribute to the Knicks’ playoff push so far, having appeared in just four NBA games this season. However, he has gotten the opportunity to learn from veteran guards such as Derrick Rose and Alec Burks, and he has remained supportive of his teammates in practices and on the sidelines. The plan now, he says, is to stay ready in case his number gets called on a more regular basis.
“When I get my opportunity with this team, I just want to take full advantage of it,” Harper said. “My main priority is to continue to get better and do anything I can do to help us make it to the playoffs. Whatever that role will be, that’s my main goal.”