When the Sixers first re-signed Tobias Harris in the free agency it was met with optimism. The franchise just locked up one of their three starters to a long-term contract. While the pay — $180 million — was quite a large number to wrap your head around, it didn’t mean a lot at the time, assuming the Sixers were going to run it back with JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler. The five of Ben Simmons, Redick, Butler, Harris, and Joel Embiid were arguably the best starting five in the entire league at the time and were going to be worth the expensive price tag.
However, things didn’t go according to the #RunItBack plan. Redick would later bolt to New Orleans to team up with a rising star in Zion Williamson, and Butler would take his talents to the city of Miami. The Sixers pivoted by signing Al Horford (which totally went well!) and acquiring Josh Richardson in a sign-and-trade with Miami in exchange for Butler.
Fast forward through a very lackluster season and another team remodel, and the Sixers find themselves in a tricky situation in regards to Tobias Harris, who is being paid nearly $150 million over the next 4 seasons.
When we look at Harris and his contract it’s somewhat polarizing. The team has a quality stretch four in him to pair alongside Embiid and Simmons. On paper, the fit is really solid as Harris is an above average shooter. However, the fit has certainly come into question more and more with time. While Harris is a quality shooter, we’ve seen the offense struggle at times while he hesitates letting the ball fly from behind the arc. There have been many instances where he passes up an open three to take a contested mid-range shot; something that really can’t be afforded when playing alongside Embiid and Simmons.
Zach Lowe is one of us pic.twitter.com/gQySKyX1J8— Prime Playoff Tyrese Maxey MVP Szn (@TrillBroDude) December 18, 2020
Harris is indeed a quality player and very good person off the court. Unfortunately for him, his massive contract outshines both of things, leaving him as a popular scapegoat for many fans. If he was earning around $15 million less per season, maybe things would be different.
Harris’s contract and fit was the biggest talking point in the Sixers’ first game of the 2020-21 NBA season as he only put up 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. He looked lost for the most part on both ends or the court, and his shot just wasn’t falling at all. This resulted in him going -7 in +/- for the night, as the Sixers won the game by 6 points.
10 points on bad shooting isn’t going to justify the $30+ million price tag for Tobias Harris this year. While it’s important to note that this was just one game in a 70 game season, there were also big struggles from him in the postseason. He put up 15.8 points per game against the Celtics on a very inefficient 38 percent shooting from the floor. His 13 percent shooting from behind the arc was even worse.
It seems like the Sixers would be better off moving Tobias Harris for a better fitting player, or for cap space. This is much more easier said than done, however, as his value is at an all-time low. While Harris can get you 20 points a game in the regular season with good rebounding, it still isn’t enough to justify his massive price tag. Teams likely won’t be willing to pay over $30 million a year for that kind of production.
So what are some options for Harris? There are a few that immediately come to mind. I also think it’s important to note that I don’t believe his contract — along with anyone else in the NBA — is “untradeable”. We just saw an offseason were some of the most bloated deals in the NBA were moved; with Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Al Horford. The deal likely wouldn’t be pretty in these scenarios, but I definitely think the Sixers could move off of his deal if they really wanted to.
One of the first options that come to mind is Indiana’s All-Star: Victor Oladipo. Oladipo suffered a horrible quad injury that kept him out for an entire year and he’s still working to get back to his previous form. There have been big concerns and rumors surrounding Oladipo wanting out of Indiana, as they likely won’t pay him the contract he’s looking for in the coming offseason.
Oladipo himself is a major question mark, but the Sixers could definitely be interested in acquiring him for many reasons in a trade for Harris. Landing Oladipo would give the Sixers an additional shot creator on the wing. While he’s an average shooter, he’s capable of generating his own offense and finishing around the rim.
But what happens if Oladipo doesn’t return to form? It’s a very real possibility.
Swapping Harris for Oladipo would allow the Sixers for even more salary cap relief. If the Sixers didn’t like the price tag Oladipo was demanding, they could let him walk which would open up even more possibilities in free agency. Combine that with the fact that Danny Green is an expiring deal and the Sixers would be looking at a free agency period where they could land a player far better suited for the roster with a competitive contract.
Not sold on Oladipo? There’s another option in Kevin Love.
No, not Liberty Ballers’ Kevin F. Love. The former NBA champion, Kevin Love.
Kevin Love has been stuck in Cleveland’s endless rebuild, after LeBron James’ departure. We’ve seen signs of frustration from the former All-Star as Cleveland’s guard rotation has below average passers. While Love has obvious good history with the franchise, it might be best for him to spend his twilight years on a contender; with the Sixers being a great fit.
Love has always been a great shooter for a big man. While he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, landing him in exchange for Harris would give the Sixers an additional non-hesitation shooter on the floor. Love could play the four alongside Embiid, or be used as a five alongside Simmons in the postseason. While Love’s best days are certainly behind him there’s benefits with his contract as well — he’s under contract for one less year than Harris, and is set to make $28.9 million in his final season in 2022-23, compared to Harris’s salary of $38.48 million in the same year.
Harris could have a much larger role with the rebuilding Cavaliers and could provide great leadership to some of their younger talents.
Tobias Harris seems to be the last remainder of the Sixers’ disastrous 2019 offseason. While Harris is certainly a solid fit for the Sixers, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morey began to field some offers in regards to moving off of Harris. Daryl Morey has already traded away the likes of Josh Richardson and Al Horford who were also signed around the same time. This season might be final nail in Harris’s time as a Sixer if things don’t start to look up. In Morey we trust.