There is a lot to like about Tobias Harris. He’s a valuable leader and a consistent on-court contributor since being traded to the Sixers during the 2018 season. It is tough to find anyone who has spoken to or interacted with Tobias Harris that will say a bad thing about him, and he is one of the most intelligent and interesting people in Philly sports. Despite all this, there are some serious questions about if Tobias Harris is capable of helping push the Sixers closer to their championship aspirations.
With the Sixers already on the verge of major change, should Tobias Harris be a part of this?
The $180 Million Elephant in the Room
The Sixers first traded for Tobias Harris as the franchise made the rapid transition from NBA bottom-feeders to legitimate contenders. Just two months after trading for Jimmy Butler, the Sixers pounced at another trade opportunity and added Tobias Harris with the intent of building a “Big Four.”
This all-in attempt from the Sixers fell short as the season ended on the heartbreaking quadruple-bounce shot from Kawhi Leonard. As the Raptors went on to win the NBA championship, the Sixers faced some difficult situations about the future of their team.
The starting lineup of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid started in just 10 regular-season games and played just 161 game minutes during the regular season this year. The Sixers put together their most well-rounded roster and gave themselves their most legitimate chance at a title this year. With them having such a short time together, the motto “Run it Back” was quickly coined heading into the offseason.
The Sixers flipped nearly all their trade assets to attain these Butler and Harris it made resigning them even more important. Jimmy Butler had other plans and turned down a 5-year $191 million max contract with the Sixers in favor of a 4-year $141 million deal with the Miami Heat. This put the Sixers back against the wall and forced them to pay a pretty penny for the 26-year-old Tobias Harris.
This 2018-19 season was the best of Harris’ career. Across the 82 games he played with the Clippers and Sixers, Tobi averaged 20 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 39.7% from beyond the three-point arc. Heading into his prime, Harris was due for his major payday, and the Sixers were in a position where they were forced to pay up. The two sides ultimately agreed on a 5-year $180 million deal and made him a vital part of the future of Philly basketball.
The Fit Issues
Putting the money to the side (yes, all $180 million of it), there are some real concerns with the play-style of Tobias Harris in today’s NBA. He is a very skilled basketball player but is heavily reliant on his mid-range and post-up game for consistent production. Harris has a career average of 16.3 points per game but has failed to ever crack an all-star game and has already played for five different teams during his career.
It is his offensive style and shot selection that has become increasingly worrisome. Throughout his career, Tobias Harris has taken 72.4% of his shots from inside the three-point arc. This number has increased these past two seasons, with Harris taking 77.5% of his shots as two-pointers last year and 74.3% so far this season, with over 50% of his attempts coming from within 10 feet. It is incredibly frustrating to watch an above-average statistical three-point shooter pass up on good looks for deep, but this is the case with Tobias Harris on just about a nightly basis.
While all points count the same, relying so heavily on these interior points contributes to the spacing issues that the Sixers have constantly been plagued with. Perimeter scoring and relying on points from beyond the three-point arc has become increasingly important as the NBA continues to evolve. With Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobis Harris all operating at their best out of the post and mid-range, the trio was destined to fail in today’s NBA.
Does Harris fit with Embiid?
To be fair to Tobias Harris, he has had some great moments so far during his time in Philadelphia. He deserves a ton of credit for serving as the locker room leader through some incredibly different circumstances and has left it all on the floor on a nightly basis. However, from a basketball standpoint, he is simply not the guy that can complement Joel Embiid in a way that brings out the best of his abilities.
The Sixers are already on the verge of making a franchise-altering decision regarding the future of Ben Simmons, and they should consider if Tobias Harris should be a part of this movement as well. Joel Embiid is 27-years-old and in the prime of his career. If the Sixers are to reach their championship aspirations, they must focus on building a team that brings out the best in their superstar.
Unlike Ben Simmons, there are likely zero teams across the NBA that look at Tobias Harris as their potential missing piece. The 29-year-old will not bring back nearly the all-star caliber return that the Sixers are in search of, but he could be flipped for some much better complimentary pieces. Trading your second and third best-rostered players midway through the year would be a rare move, but one the Sixers absolutely need to look into. It is essential that the Sixers make sure to optimize the window of Embiid’s prime, and they have already let several valuable years go to waste.