The Sixers are 5-2 and I believe they are the best team in the Eastern conference. This piece is not being written to cause panic, just to point out a negative trend.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons rightfully dominate the headlines, but one player in particular needs to be better for the Sixers to reach the heights that we all envision. That player is their highest paid player, Tobias Harris. The raw numbers from Harris look good. He is averaging 19.7 points and 8.6 rebounds on 50.5% shooting. Those numbers do not tell the whole story because Harris is shooting 31.3% from 3 so far while also shooting 32.6% from distance last season while with the Sixers.
The long-range shooting is just part of the problem, Harris who signed a 180-million-dollar contract in the offseason, has struggled when playing with Joel Embiid. That wouldn’t be a problem if Embiid was a non-contributor like Jonah Bolden, but he is the Sixers’ best player. He averages 10 more points per game when Embiid is out versus when he plays. Clearly, his numbers are expected to suffer some when Embiid plays and takes touches, but the splits are far too stark from a max-level player. From the moment he arrived at the trade deadline last season, Harris has struggled to get in a rhythm with Embiid. Conversely, Jimmy Butler was able to thrive while playing alongside Embiid.
With Ben Simmons (who has his own issues) sidelined with a shoulder injury, now would be a great time for Harris to make the people who write his checks and the fans look good by playing well in tandem with the Sixers’ 7-foot star. The challenges of the season haven’t changed. Embiid needs to be healthy and dominant in the playoffs and Simmons must at some point shoot the basketball. Harris as a wing player also must be better WITH Embiid by playoff time or the Sixers will not be able to compete at the highest level.