Heading into the season, one of the biggest concerns for the Sixers in their hunt for an NBA Championship was who would take the big shots down the stretch in close games. Last year, that player was Jimmy Butler. His late-game heroics were a welcome addition to a team filled with unproven players. Now with Butler gone, the Sixers need to find someone new to fill that role. Enter Tobias Harris.
Last year’s trade with the Clippers for Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic was looked at as a trade that could put the Sixers over the top and into a group of real contenders for a title in a wide-open Eastern Conference. Obviously, roles change with so many stars on one team, and Harris was forced into a role he wasn’t used to, the third or fourth option on offense. If shots weren’t falling for him early, the offense would shy away from giving him the ball. That is not the case this year.
After giving Harris a max contract, the expectation was that he would step up and look like the star everyone thought they were trading for last season. An up-and-down start to the season, coupled with the amount of money Harris was earning, had many doubting his fit in Philadelphia. Things have since evened out, and now, Harris is reminding fans just how vital he is to the success of the team, especially in crucial situations.
Tobias Harris isn’t the type of player that will run the offense in the last few minutes of a tight game, and he doesn’t need to be. Harris is at his best when he is looking for an open shot or cutting to the lane for a pass. The Sixers have utilized those strengths perfectly next to a point guard like Ben Simmons. More often than not. when the ball is in Harris’ hands, he is shooting, no matter how hot or cold he is.
During his freezing cold 0-of-23 streak from 3-point range, Harris continued to shoot the ball. That type of confidence is key. Even when things aren’t going his way, he realizes that the only way to get out of a funk is to shoot through it, especially when his outside shot is needed in the starting lineup. The stats don’t necessarily show it, but this season has been one of Harris’ most productive of his career thus far. Only shooting 31.6 percent from deep this year, it’s easy to blame the statistical drop on that early-season cold streak. Besides that, he has been the Sixers’ most consistent offensive weapon.
Just because Harris has been the most consistent player on offense doesn’t mean he needs to take every late shot, but he has worked his way into the conversation of being the guy in meaningful moments. His ability to shoot from the outside, work inside with or without the ball, and handle the ball anywhere on the court makes him the most obvious choice, especially when starters Joel Embiid and Al Horford are stationed down low or double-teamed and Ben Simmons is reluctant to shoot.
Tobias Harris is never going to be a top-tier shot creator on his own. Thankfully, the rest of the starting lineup can help mask that flaw late in the game in order for Harris to play at his full potential. The Sixers are still figuring things out, and while it isn’t always pleasing to the eye, they are still winning games. If they can figure out who they can trust late in games with big shots, things might get just a bit easier. Tobias Harris has played his way into this situation, now he just needs to embrace it.