The 76ers came back from down 21 tonight to achieve a statement win, capped off by a clutch Embiid fadeaway that secured the win. Aside from validating the uphill 'EMVPIID' campaign entering the final weeks of the season, it also showed Philly fans the ugly side of Tobias Harris' game, who shot just 27% from the field on 8 points in a game that should have not needed late game heroics to beat the 13th seeded Trail Blazers.
In Harris' last 10 games, he has averaged just 11.4 points per game, on just 8 shots a night. Harris' seemingly docile approach to basketball in the Sixers' recent games has left a lot to be desired from the forward pack, on a team where the team's depth often struggles to support the mammoth talent of James Harden and Joel Embiid. It's apparent that Tobias Harris needs to redefine his role on the team, as the prospect of another underwhelming playoff performance looming over Harris is not a nice thought for Philly fans.
Perhaps moving to the sixth man position could help Tobi get his groove back? The recently acquired Jalen McDaniels has impressed Sixers fans in his first games, giving the team much needed energy on both sides of the ball and has established himself as a crucial piece to the team's rotation. In the wake of Harris' absence, McDaniels would play a pivotal role in coming back from 18 points against the first seeded Bucks and upsetting Giannis on the road. Although his playoff ability is so far largely unproven, his energy and defence is undoubtedly highly desired during the demanding and physical nature of the playoffs. At the starting 3 position, McDaniels could provide more toughness and defence to the lineup, while also space the floor with veteran PJ Tucker, who would be opened up by the passing of James Harden.
Most interestingly, McDaniels could be a formidable counter to the Boston Celtics, who appear more and more likely to be the 76ers' opponent in the second round. With Charlotte, McDaniels would score 26 and 24 points respectively versus the Celtics. His length and size could allow McDaniels to counter the C's unusually tall lineup and spend minutes guarding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and potentially help slow them down in a series that could define the future of the 76ers for good.
For Tobias Harris, a sixth man position would be disheartening at first after years of starting for Philly, and forcing the 15th highest paid player in the NBA onto the bench might be a tough bullet to swallow for the 76ers. However, the change in scenery could incorporate Harris into the lineup more effectively, who would serve as a leader and anchor for the 76ers bench lineup. On the bench, Harris would receive more touches as the first option, and could see increased production across the board. Moreover, pressure would be taken off of Tobias Harris to produce as a starter, and he could flourish in a smaller role off the bench. Tobi could help the 76ers bench produce more offensively when the star duo of Embiid-Harden are off the floor, and potentially make Doc River's frustrating all-bench lineups more manageable.
For the 76ers, the championship window is the most open it will ever be, and so it is imperative that Harris can be incorporated into the lineup in a way that will not negatively impact the team, as tough matchups against the Celtics and the Bucks await the 76ers' path to the finals. As a sixth-man, Tobias could be implemented similarly to how Doc tried to incorporate Maxey into the bench unit earlier in the season, stimulating the Sixers' offence in bench minutes and stemming the bleeding when Joel Embiid is off the court.
Although a small change, a Tobias Harris sixth-man move could be crucial to the playoff success to the 76ers, who would see their bench generate more offence in Harris, and solidify their starting lineup's defence with the inclusion of the young and hungry Jalen McDaniels.