Contrary to the desires of a segment of the fan base and Crumbl Cookies enthusiasts, Tobias Harris is back for his sixth season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. While Harris’ name was once again floated out in trade rumors this past offseason, his departure never seemed too likely. Tobias and his $39.3 million expiring contract help Daryl Morey and the franchise perfectly thread the needle between remaining competitive this season and maximizing cap space next offseason. Any realistic trade for Tobias would probably have resulted in the team taking an additional step back this year (possibly earning the ire of Joel Embiid), or upset the 2024 cap space plan.
So here we are, with Harris returning to continue providing steady, efficient production as a third or fourth option, that will nevertheless infuriate a fair amount of Sixers fans on those nights when he has just five points on 2-of-8 shooting. For this season, though, Harris will remain a valuable locker room presence and on-court contributor for the Sixers, who already have their fair share of controversy elsewhere on the roster.
James Harden is playing nice for now, but on Sixers Media Day, Tobias made it clear that the team is ready to keep working and go in whatever direction they need to go:
“A few years ago, when that [the Ben Simmons saga] did happen, we just learned to control what we can control. Today’s media day, tomorrow’s the first day of practice. We’ve got a great group here. The guys that are here have been working their tails off all summer long to be ready for this moment. For us, we’re ready to compete. New staff in place here as well, so we’re ready to learn a new system offensively and defensively and figure out ways that we can be at our best as a group. So that’s all we can do. Everything else will handle itself and we’ll figure it out from there. But right now, we’ve got each other here and we’re ready to go. That’s really all that matters.”
With the Denver Nuggets winning the 2023 title, continuity is a catchy phrase in NBA circles. Even if we assume Harden is gone by the start of the season, the Sixers will return seven of their top nine from last spring’s final postseason rotation. Harris was asked if he senses continuity with the core guys:
“Yeah. Throughout the summer, guys have been together working out. The last couple of weeks, guys have been here working out. We’ve got great energy in the gym. The new staff has done a great job of really allowing everybody to come in here and be themselves, implementing a lot of different things that have given guys confidence in their games. … Obviously we’ll find out more of that during training camp. But for us as a whole group, we just want to get out, get ready and play. We have a lot of talent, a lot of potential, and we’re excited to hit the floor and get this thing rolling. There’s definitely been great energy in the gym with this staff and with all the players that have been here.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tobias Harris conversation without talking about what his role will be. How much will he be able to handle the ball or run pick-and-roll? Will he be relegated to a spot-up shooter role? Harris talked at length about what he anticipates his role being and whether there is any uncertainty in light of the Harden situation:
“I don’t really think there’s too much uncertainty. I’ve had great conversations with Coach on what he expects of me. The whole group understands and knows this is a different style of basketball with him and his philosophies of offense and defense. It’s going to be a lot of ball movement; a lot of different actions; a lot of body movement out there; a lot of running, getting up and down. I think all those things are factors that are helpful in a lot of guys on the team’s games, including myself. I’m excited for that. But like I said before, I’ve always been a player that, whatever’s asked, I’m going to figure out a way to do it at the highest of my ability. I’ve had great conversations with Coach on what he expects of me, how he envisions me playing with this group. I’m extremely excited for it. I’m excited for this whole group; I think it’s a great opportunity for a lot of guys to showcase their abilities, their games, and for us as a collective group to figure out our chemistry and see how good we can be.”
Tobias then expanded upon the offense with Nick Nurse now at the end of the bench:
“I don’t know what player wouldn’t be excited for those types of things. Obviously we talked about running more pick-and-rolls with myself and Joel; post-up actions as well; catching the ball off the rebound and going coast to coast; and just being able to get up as many threes as I can. … Those conversations just went straight to the gym in the summer, and I’m continuing to implement all those things in my game. That’s how I work out (normally), but just being really focused on the type of action — so watching plays and sets that he ran in Toronto, how they came about and the personnel. And I’ve been back here for some time as well and have been able to go through those things with live play. I’m happy and excited for that. Can’t wait to get going.”
Harris has become somewhat of an afterthought when projecting what this Sixers team could do this season. However, it’s possible that Nurse’s schemes could unlock new paths to production for Tobias and his Sixers teammates. We’ll see what is in store for Harris in the quickly approaching preseason and the regular season in the weeks to follow.