The stalwart, reliable, professional locker room leader that is Tobias Harris is finally on the last year of his once gargantuan, nearly eternal, five-year $180M contract he signed back in 2019, all compliments of Josh Harris and the collaborative led front office he’d assembled at the time. In under a year, fans understood the contract could be one impossible to ever trade.
But low and behold, what’s this? Tobias Harris has opened this young season really balling out!
Through six games (and five wins) Harris is averaging 19.7 points (his career high in a Sixers uniform) 6.0 boards, 2.7 dimes, more than a steal, and nearly one block per game, all while shooting 40.0 percent from distance (having drained 8 of 20 triples) on a stellar (thus far into a young season, career high) 73.5 TS percent, and also checking his man with gusto on defense.
The 76ers recorded an NBA season team high 17 blocks in a game game vs. the Portland Trailblazers recently.
After that win, Harris was asked about the team swatting so many Blazer shots: “That was our emphasis going into the game, you know, to be active,” the thirteen year vet out of Tennessee said, following the 126-98 win over Portland last month.
“I thought we had great energy from the start,” Harris continued, “with our ball pressure and kind of our game plan of what we wanted to get across just being physical but in their space. I thought, in the second half we just did a great job coming out of halftime and being locked in on getting stops.”
Then something interesting happened.
Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer asked Harris after the win about the team’s mindset without James Harden in the lineup (all pretrade, remember) ; did they have some ‘question marks’ coming into the year that they’ve been able to answer for themselves, playing without The Beard or a true point guard?
When answering, Harris sounded far more confident than I would have guessed. “Well we never really had any question marks,” Harris admitted. “We know we have a heck of a team all through training camp, we knew how good of a team that we are and can become. We know the talent level that we have and everybody, y’know, I said this from training camp, has something to prove individually and collectively as a whole team after last season.”
Next, Harris was asked about a few of the offensive tweaks Nick Nurse implemented in Philadelphia that helped him find a rhythm.
“Yeah its just taking advantage of different match ups out there and being put in different positions. And I think I was able to do that [during the Portland win] and that’s from the staff and the type of offense we’re running and the type of opportunities that are being presented to me. Taking advantage of them and just playing with that type of flow ...[Joel Embiid] creates so much of a crowd. He did a great job of just distributing the basketball and making plays for other guys and myself was one of the ones that reaped that benefit tonight too,” Harris detailed.
If Tobias can continue to play at this high of a level, the type that caused our Editor-in-Chief Paul Hudrick to describe his season’s start as “hyper efficient,” and the team doesn’t trade him beyond the deadline, Daryl Morey might have to think long and hard about what type of price point he’d be willing to meet when Harris hits free agency next summer. Imagine a world where Harris sticks around beyond 2024, making Philly a longterm home, likely on a more team-friendly deal this time around?
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
For now, reliable has just been overwhelming opponents whether it’s been bullying Giannis violently backwards before twisting into a silky little pull up jay that rattles home in crunch time, sticking transition triples, or bulldozing guards after switches, Tobias Harris is playing very, very good ball for coach Nick Nurse. He, Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid and Kelly Oubre have all been as advertised or much much better.
On what’s been working for him specifically in Nurse’s offense: “Just slowing down on the floor, picking my spots, being aggressive. But at the same time, it’s just added opportunity and figuring out where those are at and how I can be most efficient in those areas. All those shots are shots that I work on time after time. But a lot of it has to do with just the flow we’ve played at, and the pace. Everybody, once you get the ball off of a rebound, push it and see what you can create. So being in those opportunities is opening up new things for myself. And then just looking for the threes in the half-court offense. But I think doing a good job of just slowing down, evaluating where the defense is and where the game’s at, and just having a little bit more space in different positions has been what’s been working for him.”
Harris was asked about those snap decisions where you’re deciding to fire a catch-and-shoot three or attack a close out. “I just look at it like, if someone’s closing out and I feel like the time to shoot is a little too quick … there were a few of them when I saw there was no help behind there. So I was like, ‘all right, I won’t have time, this guy looks like he’s flying.’ And probably on a few of them I could’ve just drew a foul. (Laughs.) But that’s something that after games, I go home, watch the film and evaluate those types of positions. And then come in the next day, work on them and figure out where that leads me.”
Whispers: I wonder what Tobi’s trade value might be on his expiring deal combined with some outgoing picks when teams like Chicago or whoever dip into full on tank mode... ...asking for a friend, that’s all.