By Dylan MacKinnon
The first thing people often talk about when it comes to the Sixers, and rightfully so, is the dominance of Joel Embiid. He played like an MVP in the regular season, and has stepped his game up to an even higher level in the playoffs. After that, people will talk about Ben Simmons. Either to praise his defense, or often to complain he didn’t score enough or didn’t hit his free throws. And even after Embiid and Simmons, the next name you will hear the day after a game may be Doc Rivers, perhaps Matisse Thybulle, sometimes Tyrese Maxey or Shake Milton if they went crazy off the bench.
But a name we don’t talk about enough is Tobias Harris. All he has done is put up around 20pts a game in the regular season and in the playoffs, while racking up rebounds, and playing above average defense. It is rarely flashy, and often over shadowed by what Embiid does, but Harris is vital to the team’s success. And while no one is denying that, it still feels like we don’t give him the praise he deserves.
So this article is dedicated to showing all the things Tobias Harris does for this team, that do not get enough appreciation from the fan base and media .
In the regular season, Tobias Harris averaged just fewer than 20 pts a game, while shooting just under 40% from 3pt range, and over 50% from the field. He not only filled it up, he did so with the efficiency of someone spending most of the game around the paint.
In the playoffs, he has been even better. In 7 games, he has only once failed to score at least 20. That was in game 2 when the Sixers were out to such a big lead that Harris only had to play 23 minutes. He is scoring 23.9 pts per game in the playoffs, and again doing so while shooting over 50% from the field. He is 16thin pts per game in the playoffs, but only 5 of the players above him also shooting over 50%. And of those 16, he is one of only 4 who have played less than 35 minutes a game and still scored that much.
Among players who are still playing in the playoffs, he is 10th in scoring.
After averaging a respectable 6.8 rebounds a game in the regular season, Harris has stepped his game up to average 9.4 in the playoffs. That is 10th among all players in the playoffs, and 6th among players on still active teams. Among non-centers, he is 3rd. He is actually leading the Sixers, snagging more rebounds than both Embiid and Simmons.
And if you want to go by analytics and not raw numbers, he is 18thin True Rebounding Percentage, and 9th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage.
Tobias Harris has never been known for his defense. On a team with 3 DPOY caliber players, it is easy to overlook other defenders. But Harris has quietly been very effective on defense. Sure, he is not being asked to defend the other team’s best player, but he is doing everything they ask him to do, and a bit more. In the regular season his defensive rating of 108.1 was the 32nd best in the NBA. It placed him just behind former DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In the playoffs, his defensive rating has improved to 107.8, which is 29th. His steals per game have also gone up in the playoffs. He has averaged 1.4 steals per game over 7 playoff games. Is he an elite defender? No. But he has been above average. And when he is sometimes your 4th best defender on the floor, that is significant. He isn’t some guy other teams can target with screens to get Ben Simmons off their best player. He is a good enough defender that he is rarely a liability on that end, and most times is an asset.
Everything Else He Does
No one thing he does is necessarily elite. But the fact he is very good at so many things, is what makes him a near elite player. Many players can do one or two things well, but also have one weakness. for some it is defense, for others it is shooting. But something about them hurts their team. What is Tobias Harris’s weakness? He is a good shooter, he can drive to the trim, rebounds well, and can also make a good pass here and there. Anything you would ask of him, he is capable of doing at least at a above average level, if not better.
All of this is good enough for him to be 13th in the playoffs in PER. He has an all-around game that is essential to the Sixer’s success. More importantly he is also a leader, on and off the court. He is never the best player on the floor, since usually he is playing with Embiid who is perhaps the best player in the world right now. But they don’t need or want him to be the best player. What he is is the perfect wingman. A swiss army knife capable of handling any situation. He will just quietly get the Sixers 20 pts, 7 rebounds, a few steals and assists.
So I say it’s time we show him some more appreciation. Because without Tobias Harris, they wouldn’t be here.