Tobias Harris Taking a Step Back is Not a Bad Thing

Tobias Harris, Sixers
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris (12) dribbles the ball in a action during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

The Sixers have turned into one of the most exciting teams in the NBA since trading for James Harden just prior to the trade deadline. The trio of Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey has shown the early signs of being a seamless fit combining for 254 points in their first three games together.

While most of the offensive has been clicking on all cylinders, there has been one guy who has consistently struggled. Tobias Harris has caused much frustration for Sixers fans this season, but the lack of offensive production shouldn’t be a concern moving forward.

There is Only One Ball

Joel Embiid currently leads the NBA in scoring with the 29.5 points per game he adds to the scoresheet. James Harden provides an additional 22.9 points per game and attempts 15.7 shots per game. Tyrese Maxey has averaged 17.6 points per game on the season, but with the uptick in tempo has scored 26.8 points per game in the three games alongside Harden. The bottom line is the Sixers’ offense is loaded with weapons, and if the safety does not have to be taken off of Tobias Harris, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Added Defensive Responsibility

While James Harden has more than filled the missing playmaking that Ben Simmons brought to the Sixers, the area in which there is still a hole is on the defensive end. It is often taken for granted what a luxury having Simmons to toss on the opponent’s best player on a nightly basis was. This will become especially evident in the playoffs, and if Tobias Harris is able to take some of this responsibility, it would go a long way to helping the team.

While Tobias Harris might not be known for being a lockdown defender, he has shown some extremely encouraging flashes of late. One example of this was in the Timberwolves game where Tobi spent a majority of the matchup with Karl Anthony-Towns. This is traditionally a matchup for Joel Embiid, but handing the defensive assignment to Harris allowed for Embiid to guard Jared Vanderbilt as his primary assignment (who is not a serious offensive threat) and patrol the paint in a more effective way.

The Future of Tobias Harris

It does not take a keen observation to notice that Tobi is not a seamless fit in this new-look Sixers team. He absolutely must make changes to his game to help the team to the greatest of his ability. The gravity of Joel Embiid and James Harden, along with the passing ability of the new guard, will provide Tobi with more open looks than he has seen before, and he must take advantage of these.

Harris has seen his three-point attempts take a dip this year as he is attempting 3.4 threes this season compared to the 5.0 he averaged when he first came to the Sixers. It should not be a tough ask for a guy who has shot over 40% from deep to attempt the shots when they are there.

The hefty contract that Tobias Harris is on is often held above his head, but this must change. The scoring numbers should no longer be an indicator of the impact he has on the team, as the role change is one that is not easy. It also should be acknowledged how it is not easy to ask a respected veteran like Tobi to take a backseat after having such a primary role during his time here.

Harris is swallowing a lot of pride in an attempt to make this Sixers team better, and it should be respected as such. The Sixers are attempting to ascend to new heights as a team in order to meet their championship hopes, and Tobias Harris is still a guy that can help them reach these.