After losing perennial all-star Jimmy Butler- who ranked second on the team in points per game (18.3)- to the Miami Heat earlier in the offseason, the Sixers now must fill their beta dog vacancy in HC Brett Brown’s offense. There is no shortage of options, of course, as the Sixers boast arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference. Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford are all talented enough to serve as the second scoring option behind Joel Embiid, but I believe the Sixers role should be fulfilled by none other than journeyman Tobias Harris.
Fresh off a 5-year, $180M max contract extension, Harris finally has the financial stability he’s longed for since entering the league in 2011. Now, he’ll likely be responsible for stabilizing one of the league’s most feared offenses throughout the course of next season. Despite never earning an all-star nod to this point in his career, Harris has been one of the more efficient scorers across the league since becoming a full-time starter in 2013.
Since 2013, Harris is one of just 24 players to score 7500+ points- outscoring notable stars Kevin Love, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Lou Williams, and CJ McCollum during that span. What’s most impressive about his scoring abilities, however, is just how efficient he is at putting the ball in the basket.
Of the 24 aforementioned players to score 7500+ points since 2013, only six have managed to do so with a field goal percentage of 47% or better and a three-point percentage of 36% or better. The list? Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Goran Dragic, Karl Anthony-Towns, Kawhi Leonard, and, you guessed it, Tobias Harris.
Harris hasn’t recorded such prolific numbers by simply jacking up 20+ shots a game, either. In fact, the former first rounder is one of just 28 players to average 18+ PPG on ≤16 FGA/G (minimum 80 games started), doing so in each of the past two seasons.
A large reason Harris is able to produce so consistently and efficiently despite limited touches is due to the fact that he is not only a tireless scorer, but a tireless worker. A gym rat in every sense of the phrase, Harris has trained relentlessly to elevate his game. Following a loss to the Harris-led LA Clippers in January, here’s what Hornets HC James Borrego, who coached Harris during his brief stint in Orlando, had to say about the evolution of Harris since entering the league at just 19 years old:
“I had him at a time when I’m not sure a lot of people believed in him. And I’d say there were a lot of questions on Tobias when we had him: could he make it? Was he athletic enough? What was his position: is he a 3, is he a 4? And to Tobias’s credit, he just worked. I believed he would make it someday and thrive in this league because of his work ethic.”
“[Victor] Oladipo was a very similar player,” Borrego said. “Both guys are extremely great workers, so he’s just worked himself into this. I think a lot of people didn’t see him shooting the ball like this someday, and he just worked. He’s just a great example for all young people, not just in the NBA, but in college and high school, if you put the work in, you can grow your game and change people’s perception of you. He’s just become a complete player. He can get to the rim, he can score, he can shoot the 3. He’s a more sound defensive player than he’s ever been, so I’m proud of him. One of my favorite players in the NBA.”
After evolving from a positionless teenage prospect with potential to a dynamic everyday starter, perhaps we still haven’t seen the best of what Harris has to offer. Now in a Philly starting five primarily filled with complementary scorers, Harris has the opportunity to be a featured scorer and expand on his impressive offensive numbers even further.