Tobias Harris is one of the many developmental success stories in the NBA.
A late 1st-round draft choice out of the University of Tennessee, he has played for 5 teams over 10 seasons.
Harris developed into a solid role player during his 4 seasons with the Orlando Magic before blossoming into a full-time starter in Detroit with the Pistons.
After being traded to the LA Clippers in 2017-2018, he rose to borderline All-Star status as a 3-level scoring wing.
Tobias was then acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the 2018-2019 season as the Sixers pushed for an NBA Title.
Sources: Clippers and Sixers have agreed to trade Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, 2020 first-rounder, 2021 unprotected 1st via Miami and two second rounders.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 6, 2019
He struggled last season (along with the rest of the team) in the first year of his new deal.
After those struggles continued in the postseason, Sixers fans’ complaints of Harris’ contract only grew louder.
And they are right to complain – Harris is overpaid.
But saying a player is overpaid does not entail he is a bad player.
Tobias’ numbers across the board in 2019-2020 were right on par with his career averages.
Harris is a solid 2-way wing who got paid like an elite 2-way wing.
He is by no means a bad player, but he is overpaid.
Harris Is Not a Star
This season, Tobias will make $33.5 million – good for the 15th highest-paid player in the league.
Of the top-20 highest-paid players in the league, he is the only player to not have any career accolades.
On July 10th, 2019, Tobias Harris signed the 6th richest contract in NBA history
The five players above him are first ballot Hall of Famers. pic.twitter.com/8eCakVWT8Q
— Eric Sidewater (@G0LFScience) December 21, 2020
Harris has not made an All-Star team or been named to an All-NBA team.
Mike Conley, 11th highest paid, hasn’t made an All-Star team either, but he at least made an All-Defensive team and consistently led his teams to the playoffs.
Handing out a fully guaranteed, $180 million contract to players usually comes with the assumption they will be your team’s best player.
Harris is not the Sixer’s best player.
He is not even their second-best player.
Tobi is the Sixer’s third-best player behind their two franchise cornerstones, Simmons and Embiid.
Both of whom are making less than Harris for the foreseeable future.
While Harris was a fringe All-Star during his time with the Clippers, he didn’t play like one after being acquired by Philly.
Slightly overpaying somebody based on potential is perfectly fine.
But Harris was already 27 when the Sixers offered him his extension.
Most NBA players hit their prime right around 27/28 and will maintain it into their early- to mid-30s.
Realistically, the best version of Tobias Harris was on display last season.
A season that saw him average 19.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 3.2 APG while slashing 47.1%/36.7%/80.6% (FG/3P/FT).
Which by no means are bad numbers for an NBA player – especially when that player is a team’s third-best player.
But giving $180 million to your third-best player is overpaying.
Not a Great Fit in Philly
Another time overpaying for a player can be acceptable is if the player is a great fit with the rest of the team.
However, this typically occurs with role players, not integral members of the starting 5.
On paper, the fit should be snug.
Harris does not constantly need the ball in his hands and can spot-up from beyond the arc.
A perfect fit next to two All-NBA talents who need ample spacing on offense to operate at their highest level.
But after 102 games in Philly, it is clear the on-court product doesn’t match the on-paper ideal.
Coming from a Sixers fan, it was clear it wasn’t a great fit after the 39 games he played after being acquired from LA.
Here’s a look at his regular season stats with the Clippers and Sixers in 2018-2019:
- LAC: 55 G, 20.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.7 APG on 49.6% FG, 43.4% 3PT
- PHI: 27 G, 18.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.9 APG on 46.9% FG, 32.6% 3PT
- PHI (Playoffs): 12 G, 15.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4 APG on 42.5% FG, 34.9% 3PT
The PPG dip can be explained based on his drastic change of role.
With the Clippers, he was their first or second scoring option.
With Philly, he became the 4th scoring option behind Embiid, Butler, and Simmons.
But what can’t be explained away by the change of role is the sharp drop in shooting percentages.
The eye-test confirmed what the stats show – Harris simply didn’t fit well next to Philly’s two stars.
A good example of a simple kind of possession where Tobias Harris needs to speed up his decision making, and not over dribble/overthink things.
There's no need to dribble here, just know to make that next pass and swing the ball right away. https://t.co/r3lgtf7AXF
— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) December 27, 2020
But after Butler decided he wanted to leave that offseason; the Sixers had to overpay to retain Harris.
The potential was still there, but the ensuing 2019-2020 season further proved the awkward on-court fit between Tobi and the Sixers.
Still Potential with Harris
Despite clearly overpaying for Tobias and the less-than-snug on-court fit, there is still potential for improvement.
Of the first 27 games played with the Sixers, only 10 had their official starting 5 of Simmons, JJ Redick, Butler, Harris, and Embiid.
Once they reached the playoffs, they cruised through the first round before losing to the Toronto Raptors on an infamous Game 7 buzzer-beater by Kawhi Leonard.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 12, 2020
And the 2019-2020 season was essentially a wash given how poorly the roster as a whole fit together.
While it is a small sample size of only 3 games, so far Harris is shooting 40% from 3 this season (6-15).
The relatively poor 40.5% from the field should balance out as the season progresses, which will also better his current scoring average of 14.3 PPG.
Doc Rivers will be coaching Harris this season as well.
Rivers also coached Harris during the most successful years of his career.
If Doc can rediscover the best version of Harris and he maintains his solid shooting from deep, there may be hope yet for the 28-year-old with the Sixers.
Tobias Harris unfortunately is what he is, which is not a max player. The only hope is he gets back to his Clippers best when he was with Doc, but he needs to pick it up
— Kyle May (@MayDayAllDay3) December 24, 2020