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Tobias Harris Trade Review

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

While many of us were sleeping, Elton Brand was gettin’ busy on the phones with the Los Angeles Clippers. Before I go any further, let’s break it down fully:

Sixers receive:

  • Tobias Harris
  • Boban Marjanovic
  • Mike Scott

Clippers receive

  • Landry Shamet
  • Mike Muscala
  • Wilson Chandler
  • Sixers 2020 first round pick (with protections)
  • Miami Heat 2021 first round pick
  • Detroit Pistons 2021 second round pick
  • Detroit Pistons 2023 second round pick

What kind of player is Tobias Harris?

If Tobias Harris is the best player on a team, that team is going to struggle to make and succeed in the playoffs. Harris is by no means the number one guy that the Clippers counted on him to be. But could he be a solid fourth option? Yes, absolutely, no question.

This season, Harris is putting up 20.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He’s a professional scorer, first and foremost, with a respectable true shooting mark of 60.5%. He should do just fine spacing the floor: going back to the start of the 2017-2018 season (135 games), he’s averaged 5.2 threes attempted per game while hitting them at a 42% clip. He may be overachieving from an efficiency standpoint, as his career percentage from deep is 36.7%, but there’s no doubt he’s improved since coming into the league. Drawing fouls isn’t something Harris does a whole lot, but he does put the ball on the floor and drive the hoop. Speaking of putting the ball on the floor, Sixers fans will be relieved to know that Harris can score off the dribble by pulling up as well. As far as skill set goes, it fits like a glove.

While Harris is no defensive stopper, he’s not a pushover either — right around average. He’s long, athletic and young (he’ll be 27 this July), so he still has room to develop on that side of the court. The Sixers now have a starting lineup containing four players that could switch onto almost every position and, for the most part, hold their own.

One thing the Sixers will need to worry about is how everybody will eat. With Harris’ ‘thing’ being scoring, how does Brett Brown incorporate that into an offense that already has Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid and JJ Redick? It could be the case that Harris’ efficiency increases as his responsibility decreases (possibly allowing extra exertion on defense). Conversely, he could grow unhappy if he’s not getting his perceived fair share, which could negatively affect his play. That’s simply a reality that needs to be dealt with in an NBA of super teams.

The Assets

The Sixers parted with five future assets: Landry Shamet, two first round picks and two second round picks.

Landry Shamet

Look, I like Landry Shamet. I wrote a piece exposing his defense, but overall I thought he was a solid addition for the Sixers and I graded his selection in the draft a ‘B’. He can shoot, which is something the Sixers will need for the remainder of time, and he’s cost controlled through the ‘21-’22 season on a super cheap contract. He was a big help to this team.

But the thing about Shamet is that his archetype is a) entirely replaceable and b) of questionable value when the games matter. Could he grow to become a more dynamic player and stout defender? For sure, he’s only 21-years-old! But on this particular Sixers team, he was a bench shooter who couldn’t stop a leaky faucet and we’ve seen what happens to that sort of role player come May. If the Sixers aren’t done yet, and I doubt they are, there’s a good chance they can scoop up a player in the buyout market that effectively replaces Shamet’s immediate contributions. And that sort of player is also likely to be available this off-season, next season’s buyout market, 2020’s free agency period, every draft ever, etc., etc. I’m not saying they’re dime a dozen, but they can be had every year.

It does always stink to lose a home grown guy with some promise, but it is something the Sixers can overcome. The human side of me hopes to see Landry thrive in LA and have a long, successful career. I think he’s got the competitive mindset needed for this league. His ability to deal with the amount of responsibility thrown his way from day 1 has been nothing short of impressive.

The picks

It hurts to give up four picks for a centerpiece who is ‘merely’ good rather than a bona fide stud. Specifically, the unprotected Miami 2021 pick may have been the best asset in the cupboard outside of mostly untouchables like Ben Simmons, considering young players like Zhaire Smith and Markelle Fultz have huge question marks over their head. It’s hard to see how the Sixers could swing a future trade for another All-Star caliber player should Butler or Harris walk. That could cause issues because Philadelphia just has not been a free agency destination.

As far as the 2nd round picks go, the Sixers relinquished two they obtained from the Detroit Pistons, which by 2021 and 2023 could be a good picks as far as 2nd rounders go. However, Philly still possess a plethora of 2nd round picks that will/could be valuable, like the Bulls’ 2019 2nd, the Kings’ 2019 2nd, and more.

What’s left

The Sixers’ asset portfolio/youth pipeline is not barren. Zhaire Smith is working his way back to the court and he’s of a special pedigree of athleticism. Markelle Fultz.. actually, I have no idea what Fultz’ value is. Jonah Bolden has shown flashes. Even Shake Milton may be a rotation player some day. Brand still has at his disposal the 2nd round picks mentioned above as well as the Sixers’ own first round pick in 2019, 2021 and on into the future. (And in an upcoming article, I may or may not explore the practicality of the Sixers bringing over former Sam Hinkie selection Vasilije Micic.)

Will the Sixers miss Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala?

No.

What about the other players coming to Philly?

No to the above question because picking up Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic is nothing to sneeze at; both are solid front court bench contributors. Scott, a 6’8” power forward, is arguably of equal value compared to Wilson Chandler. Much to the benefit of Scott, he’ll be coming off the bench instead of starting as Chandler had. Marjanovic will likely assume the role of backup five, and a combo of he and Jonah Bolden is as solid an option as they come short of backing up Joel Embiid with a borderline starter. They both matter in evaluating the trade, they are not salary filler. There’s an argument to be made that with the addition of Boban and Scott, even before some savvy buyout work, the Sixers come away with more effective depth.

Overall

This is a good-but-not-yet-great deal for the Sixers.

They haven’t exactly addressed the weaknesses of the team — there’s still a pressing need for a guard who can match up with the Kyrie Irvings of the NBA and an athletic wing off the bench who can defend and space the floor. There’s the risk that Harris walks in free agency, as he’s on an expiring deal. In such a scenario, the Sixers will have traded four picks and a somewhat promising prospect for three expiring contracts. (But I can’t imagine the Sixers make the deal without some tampering a gut feeling that Harris will re-sign this summer.)

If that development occurs, the Sixers are possibly locking in a core four of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. (Barring trades, obviously.) Is that enough? Given Ben Simmons limitations, Jimmy Butler’s age and the fact that Harris is in a weird space between stars and nice pieces — no, I don’t think it is enough just yet. The Sixers will need to further develop Harris to be a more complete player and the same goes for Ben Simmons. Both are possible. As for Butler’s age, it’s a chance they’ll likely have to take.

And that seems to be the theme of Elton Brand’s tenure as GM of the Philadelphia 76ers so far. Taking real chances and seeing what works. Ultimately, this is an attempt to maximize Joel Embiid’s prime and open a real window for title contention. It is a gamble, to be sure. Not just because of what was given up, but because of committing themselves to a big four that may not be enough. Will this turn out to be another case of asset burn? Only time will tell, but sometimes in this league, you need to risk it to get the biscuit.