Should the Sixers extend Tobias Harris this offseason?

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)

Veteran Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris is in the fourth year of his five-year, $180 million deal. And while the value of that deal remains the subject of ongoing debate, there’s no question that the 30-year-old has been an integral part of the Sixers throughout his tenure. And with the final year of his deal on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about what may be in store for him – and the team – in the near future.

Although Harris has never been the Sixers’ greatest asset, he’s made positive contributions in almost every aspect of basketball. From functioning as a secondary ball-handler to defending some of the league’s top guards to finally being able to be in his most adept role as a true catch-and-shoot guy, Harris has been forced to adjust his game in far more ways than most NBA role players. While he wasn’t always perfect at it (has anyone ever seen him dive for a loose ball?), he’s been consistently above average.

Harris has averaged 17.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in his Sixers career while shooting an impressive 37% from three. He’s also been remarkably reliable as a free-throw shooter, averaging 84.2% in his time in Philadelphia. In fact, in 2020, he sunk 89.2% of his free throws, just narrowly missing becoming one of the few NBA players to ever average 90% in a season. That same year, Tobias came mere centimeters away from being an All-Star, just barely losing out the last spot to Julius Randle, who put up career numbers and deservedly won Most Improved Player.

But Harris’s limitations should be noted. While he does a nice job using his size mismatch to heckle some smaller (and younger) guards, he often lacks the lateral quickness needed to keep up with some of the more agile players. This makes it much easier for advanced players to blow by him in a pick-and-roll and is not something that’s likely to improve as Harris ages into his 30s.

Moreover, his PPG has been steadily declining each year, with this season so far being his lowest at just 14.8, even as his minutes have stayed relatively consistent. Finally, his contract has provided the Sixers with a massive amount of inflexibility, likely limiting the team from making the splash they would have hoped for in the past few trade deadlines. With this in mind, depending on the temperature of this year’s free agency, the team may look to deal him for a younger, less expensive wing or perhaps even bump up Jalen McDaniels to a starting spot.

Still, Harris’s contributions shouldn’t be forgotten. Despite Embiid and Harden dominating the offense, Harris has maintained his deep-threat capabilities, shooting 37.9% from beyond the arc this season. And his veteran leadership has proven itself vital for the Sixers in multiple playoff runs as well as this year’s regular season. He’s the guy the team turns to when its stars are injured, as demonstrated by him leading the team to a major upset win in November against Brooklyn when Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey were all injured.

Given all of this, it’s not out of the question for the Sixers to consider bringing him back. While, of course, it’d be on a far lesser deal, Harris’s maturity as a player, willingness to make consistent adjustments to his game, and surprising ability to stay healthy have all benefited the team mightily. He may not be perfect, but he’s important – perhaps, even important enough for the Sixers to keep him in Philadelphia.