• Marc Cantave

2019-20 Breakout Player Series: Tobias Harris

NBC Sports

Tobias Harris started last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, but was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers on February 6, 2019. In the 55 games he played with the Clippers, Harris averaged 20.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game; with the remaining 27 games with the Sixers, he averaged 18.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Overall, it was a pretty good season for Harris as he averaged 20 points per game for the first time in his career, and helped the Sixers finish as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Harris also helped the Sixers get to the second round of the playoffs before being knocked out in seven games by the eventual champions: the Toronto Raptors.

With an adequate, if unspectacular first run in Philly now behind him, we can expect Harris to improve and grow more this season. One reason for that would be the Sixers off-season moves. The Sixers traded Jimmy Butler and lost JJ Redick via free agency, but acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford.

These roster moves will benefit Tobias Harris, as he should now get a lot more touches on the perimeter. Richardson and Horford are primarily defensive players who don’t shoot the ball that often - especially Horford. With Redick and Butler having averaged 13 shots per game each, you can expect Harris' shot attempts to go up, even if only slightly (Richardson has proven capable of stepping out and hitting the three as well). With Butler gone, Harris will likely be the primary offensive threat on the perimeter, and arguably the second best offensive option (behind Embiid) on the team as Ben Simmons is more of a pass-first player.

Another reason for increased usage would be the fact that it is his first full season with the team. As stated above, Harris joined the Sixers in February during the season. Now that he’s had a full off-season, training camp, and pre-season with the franchise, expect Harris to gel more with the team and settle into his role comfortably. There were times where Harris looked lost during games (particularly during the playoffs when his stats dipped) but now that he has more time under coach Brett Brown, we can expect a more productive Harris.

Offensively, we can expect Harris to improve, as that is the stronger half of his game. What he really needs to improve on is his defense; his greatest weakness. During the second round of the playoffs, Harris was getting torched by Kawhi Leonard, over and over again. Brett Brown eventually decided to put Ben Simmons or Jimmy Butler on Leonard instead, as Harris was simply unable to handle the eventual Finals MVP.

Butler was a superior defender, but he is no longer on the team and as good as Richardson is defensively, most of the elite teams have two star-level perimeter players heading into this season. Harris is going to have to improve defensively if the Sixers want to compete with the best of the best.

Harris strengths clearly outweigh his weaknesses; he is a gifted scorer and an amazing rebounder for his position. However, his work on defense is going to be the deciding factor when it comes to him realizing his ultimate potential; luckily, he will have Al Horford to help him along.

According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The 33-year-old Horford said the thing that attracted him to the Sixers was their caliber of players, led by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. He felt the trio and the Sixers were close to taking the next step toward an NBA title. So competing alongside them and building relationships as teammates excited him”.

You can expect Horford to assume a leadership role on this Sixers team, and his level of excitement to play with Harris should translate tremendously on the defensive end, as Horford is one of the league's very best defensive minds and always looks to get teammates engaged on both ends of the floor.

If you’re a Sixers fan, you should be very excited for the upcoming season; there's a new look, some new developments, and a few raised expectations. For the Sixers to reach the Finals, Harris must improve, and I believe he will.

2019-2020 Stat line Predictions: 22.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 spg on shooting splits of 50/37/84 (FG%/3PT%/FT%).

It’s not a crazy jump in stats, but I believe it’s attainable for Harris, and I believe it’s what the Sixers need in order to get to that championship series. The Sixers have a lot of great players, but Tobias Harris will be their breakout player this season.

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