Is It Time to Move Tobias to the Bench?

Tobias Harris
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 01: Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris (12) looks on during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 1, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Saying that Tobias Harris has played poorly this year would be an understatement, especially after his nearly All-Star level production last year. Many were hoping, with the Ben Simmons situation, that Tobias would step up big time for the Sixers this season and become a solid number two for Philadelphia. Sadly, that has not been the case.

Tobias Harris is putting up okay numbers in his newfound role, averaging 18.8 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game with below-average efficiency. His field goal percentage has dropped 5.4% from last year where he shot 51.2%. He’s now sitting at 46.5%. His three-point percentage took an even larger drop of 9.2%. Last year Tobias hit nearly 40% of his threes with a three-point percentage of 39.4, while this year, he’s barely making over 30% with a pedestrian 30.2% rating from three.

His aversion to open threes and his inability to make quick decisions, along with his sudden but impactful regression, have caused many Sixers’ fans to call for him to be traded, when in reality, his massive contract, the biggest in Sixers history, may end up being too much to move.

According to Spotrac, Tobias Harris is under contract for the next three years, which will pay him a whopping total of $112,899,150. Not exactly an attractive deal to trade for. While not impossible, each year, his salary gets bigger, making it harder and harder to trade him, meaning Sixers fans may have to continue to deal with him for the next couple of years. And without giving up assets to dump his contract, the Sixers may as well accept that any return on Tobias Harris may not be worth giving him up.

The only way to potentially shake things up for the Sixers would be to move him to the bench and allow him to lead the second unit as the veteran scorer. The price tag itself is hard to swallow for a bench leader, and the Sixers would have to admit failure in their ability to acquire a second star for Joel to play with, but it makes too much sense for the Sixers not to try it.

This would move lovable stretch big Georges Niang into the starting lineup for large chunks of meaningful minutes, which is something he has proven capable of.

In 5 games started this season, Niang has provided excellent statistics, averaging 12 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game, all while playing 32.6 minutes a night. He has shot extremely well with shooting splits of 45.1%/41.4%/100% on over 5 threes per night. This is the type of stretch power forward we need in the starting lineup, not a mid-range loving volume shooter.

With Tobias Harris on the bench, the Sixers would have a legitimate 6th Man of the Year contender. From the 2015-2016 season (Tobias’ final year in Orlando and first in Detroit) to present day, Harris has come off the bench in 66 games, where he has averaged 16.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 29.6 minutes per game. There’s no reason Tobias wouldn’t flourish as a bench piece for the 76ers, and compared to the alternative of letting him continue to start, benching Tobias seems like the best option for Coach Rivers and the 76ers organization as a whole.