Editor’s Note: All stats are as of 2/4/21, prior to Philadelphia’s game against Portland.
It was only a few months ago when people were out on Tobias Harris being a Sixer. I even wrote a piece where I detailed that his future here was murky at best.
Harris, along with the Sixers, experienced a rough Celtics sweep in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. The Sixers then went on to completely remodel their front office and team in the coming months after the conclusion of the 2020 season. The Sixers shipped off two solid, but ill-fitting, players in Josh Richardson and Al Horford.
Likewise, a lot of people questioned Harris’ fit coming into this season, as he had experienced a down year in the season prior. The preseason showed a lot of problems that plagued Harris in the 2019-20 season: slow decision making, and a lack of 3-point shooting, among others. It seemed like the same Tobias Harris we saw from the season prior — a solid player, but not a seamless fit next to the Sixers’ core of Ben Simmons and Embiid.
However, things drastically changed for Tobias Harris as the season began. We saw new coach Doc Rivers — who is apparently a Tobias Harris whisperer — help utilize him in the best way possible. Harris had his best season with the LA Clippers and Doc Rivers in 2018-19. It seems that, yet again, Rivers has helped Harris take a huge jump in his game.
Under Rivers, we’ve seen Tobias Harris have less and less hesitation in his offensive game. The endless jab steps and pump fakes that led into a contested midrange shot are nowhere to be found. Harris began making quick decisions, getting downhill in transition or hitting a 3 with no hesitation.
It is a night-and-day difference compared to the Tobias Harris of last season. We’ve seen him use his individual skillset to attack different matchups. We’ve seen him use his offensive repertoire to his advantage much more this season, attacking bigger forwards/centers off the dribble and posting up against smaller forwards/guards.
This wasn’t just a hot spell for Harris, either. He’s been the Sixers’ second-best player for the majority of the season — with advanced stats backing up that claim. Harris has ranked plus-11.6 in plus/minus per 100 possessions. To put this into perspective, he was only plus-2.8 in the Sixers’ prior season. By far, it’s his career best.
Offensively, Harris hasn’t just been good, he’s been downright elite shooting the basketball. Over the span of the first 20 games of the season, he’s shooting a career high 51.5 percent from the field, an absurd 45.5 percent from 3, and has a true shooting percentage of 61.5 percent. His lack of hesitation shooting the ball has given him a new level of confidence and has taken his game, along with the Sixers, to a whole new level.
Ben Simmons pushes the pace and finds Tobias Harris for a transition three: pic.twitter.com/1wTyqkPnGv— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) January 24, 2021
Harris’ improvement isn’t just on the offensive side of the ball, either. He’s been very good and has held his own against a lot of NBA talent. Ranging from guarding the likes of Anthony Davis to the wing talent found everywhere in the Eastern Conference, he’s been very impressive.
Doc Rivers has unlocked Tobias Harris yet again. The Sixers currently rank on top of a deep Eastern Conference, and Harris has been a huge part of the team’s success. Between an MVP-caliber Joel Embiid and a vastly improved Tobias Harris, the Sixers’ ceiling to advance in the postseason has been raised significantly.
Recently, the NBA released their first update on fan voting for the 2021 All-Star game. In somewhat of a surprise, Tobias Harris had no mention whatsoever in the frontcourt voting. While this is discouraging, it’s very likely that there will be another Sixer nominated to represent the Philadelphia 76ers, assuming they remain a top-3 seed. We’ve seen a similar circumstance in Milwaukee in regards to Giannis Antetounmpo and Khris Middleton. Coaches around the league nominate the All-Stars coming off the bench, and they almost always reward winning teams.
While Harris isn’t a household NBA name, he has been an exceptional player thus far into the season and deserves to make his first All-Star appearance between great individual play and team success.
Tobias Harris deserves to be an All-Star. pic.twitter.com/Jqdo7DSQha— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) January 28, 2021
The criticism was loud and upfront to begin the Sixers’ season for Tobias Harris, and it’s only right that his praise shares the same type of energy. Tobias Harris deserves to be a 2021 All-Star.