When you think “Sixers trade,” you think Ben Simmons, but should the team consider moving Tobias Harris regardless of what happens with a Simmons trade?
The Ben Simmons trade rumors are not going away any time soon, but it’s fair to wonder if the Sixers should be looking to move on from another member of their “big 3” in Tobias Harris. The always good, never great Mr. Harris is coming off his best season as a pro, averaging 19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting splits of 51.2/39.5/89.2.
While he’s had similar offensive numbers in the past, what separated Harris this season was his defensive improvement. Harris won’t be confused for Kawhi Leonard defensively, but he can hold his own and especially improved this season when forced to switch.
Reasons to Trade Harris
The two biggest reasons would be fit and Harris’ contract ($112.9 mil remaining over three years).
As a supposed “stretch-four,” Harris, in theory, sounds like a great fit next to Joel Embiid, and while he’s far from the worst fit, he fails to properly compliment the Sixers star.
Harris turns to his mid-range game far too often for comfort and frankly isn’t a true “stretch-four” because of it. Harris is more than capable from mid-range and honestly thrives, but his fit with the team would be much more clear if he were to commit more to shooting from deep.
Tobias Harris attempted a mere 3.4 shots per game from three and while he shot a great percentage (39.5%), the volume, or lack thereof, is a clear issue.
Now, it’s obviously not Harris’ fault that he signed such a lucrative deal, and it’s difficult to blame the Sixers though an argument could certainly be made for signing Jimmy Butler over Harris.
With Joel Embiid recently signing the supermax extension that will come into effect for the 2023-24 season, the Sixers are looking at an even tighter financial future than they face already.
Moving Harris for multiple contracts that are both cheaper and shorter in remaining years is something the Sixers could easily consider.
How Does a Ben Simmons Trade Factor Into This?
Whether or not Ben Simmons is traded could factor into a decision as to whether or not the Sixers may trade Tobias Harris. While that is the case, Harris is not guaranteed to stay or go in either potential scenario.
The easy, quick answer is that it depends what the Sixers get in a Ben Simmons deal (assuming he’s traded).
If the Sixers Trade Simmons
There are a couple of scenarios in particular where it makes sense to retain Harris. If the Sixers are able to land, say, Damian Lillard, then retaining Harris makes sense, at least for this season. After all, the likelihood of obtaining a player better than Harris in a Tobias Harris trade is “Eminem-to-none”.
Suppose the Sixers settle and gain a Malcolm Brogdon or a CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons. In that case, the team really can’t afford to lose anymore “star-power,” so retaining Harris again makes the most sense.
Now suppose that the Sixers were to gain a starting-caliber power forward (whether or not they’re the headline) in a Simmons deal; that opens up a lot more optionality for the Sixers when considering a deal.
Swapping Harris for an equal talent player on near equal money, especially one who would be a better fit (CJ McCollum), would make a world of sense for Philly and should be their prime objective in that case.
If the Sixers Keep Simmons
In the unlikely (but supposedly possible) scenario that the Sixers retain Simmons and the even more unlikely case that he plays for the team, the Sixers would be wise to explore deals to move on from Tobias Harris.
If Simmons returns, there needs to be an honest, open conversation about his position with the Sixers (both on and off the court). Simmons should slide down to one of the forward spots (preferably power forward), and the team should look to move Harris for either a true point guard, a higher volume shooter, or both.
For the Sixers’ the key during the remainder of the offseason, and possibly even during the beginning of the next season, is that something has to change. While Daryl Morey shouldn’t shortchange the team, he has to find some way to reshape this roster in one way or another.