The general feeling around the Sixers organization when they traded for Tobias Harris in February of 2019 was childlike glee. After all, the Clippers forward was widely considered an all-star snub that season and would be joining a team that already featured the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler. Following the trade, GM Elton Brand declared “We are in a unique position to contend now…Tobias is one of the best three point shooters in the NBA and possesses an innate ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor.”
But that Sixers team wasn’t ready to contend. This wasn’t particularly the fault of Harris, but he was having trouble achieving the same level of consistency in Philadelphia that he enjoyed while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. This was largely a byproduct of the sheer quantity of mouths to feed on offense for the Sixers. While Harris had been the focal point of that Clippers offense, he was merely the third, and sometimes even fourth, option in Philadelphia.
Flash forward to this season and the game of Tobias Harris is entirely rejuvenated. Much of the buzz around the Eastern conference leading 76ers has understandably centered on the MVP production of Joel Embiid and defensive wizardry of Ben Simmons, but the play of Tobias Harris has also been a major reason that the Sixers are sitting pretty atop their conference.
Inside the Numbers
At this juncture of the season, Tobias Harris is averaging a healthy 20.2 points per game to go along with 7.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per contest. That offensive contribution represents the most for Harris during his time as a Sixer. What’s even more impressive than the amount of points Tobias has scored is the efficiency at which he’s been able to achieve that level of production. His shooting splits of 55.4% from the field, 40.2% from three point range, and 88.7% from the free throw line put him dangerously close to the 50/40/90 mark that only the best shooters have managed to achieve across a full season (Nowitski, Durant, Curry, etc.).
While Harris isn’t the elite playmaker that his teammate Ben Simmons is, he’s also posting a career best average in assists per game. The attention that his teammates, most notably Embiid, command on the offensive end of the floor has allowed him to thrive both as a shooter with open looks and a creator in 4 on 3 situations after Embiid has been doubled.
What’s in a Coach?
The revamped roster construction for this year’s Sixers has undoubtedly been part of the reason for Harris’s sudden rejuvenation. The departure of Al Horford and the Seth Curry for Josh Richardson exchange has resulted in a team that makes more sense for a player like Tobias. But the roster isn’t the only difference between this year’s team and the disappointing squad Philly fans watched all of last season.
Doc Rivers, one of the Sixers exciting signs over the offseason, is seldom mentioned as a key ingredient to the Sixers success this season. While you can count me among those that think the impact of the players far outweighs that of any coach, it is plausible that Rivers himself is a major reason for the improved play of Tobias Harris. One shouldn’t forget that it was under Rivers tutelage that Harris thrived as point-forward for a Los Angeles Clippers team that vastly outdid expectations.
Catch Tobias Harris and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers after the all-star break when they match up with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, March 11th.