It feels like just yesterday that the Sixers had two of the worst contracts in the NBA, belonging to Al Horford and Tobias Harris. The two just didn’t fit together into the big-centric roster of the Philadelphia 76ers, and it was clear that one of them had to go in the offseason.
New president of basketball operations Daryl Morey wasted no time in jettisoning Horford to the OKC Thunder for Danny Green, freeing up the frontcourt for Harris. As it happens, it was a good deal for all parties because Horford was actually too good in Oklahoma City and agreed to shut his season down in order to fully realize their tanking efforts.
Tobias Harris has had a quick revival from having the presumed worst contract in the league to being one of the most important Sixers in the NBA playoffs
While Horford’s season culminated in simply being banished for overperforming, Tobias Harris had a different fate in store. Morey was rewarded for his faith in Harris and keeping him over Horford all season long, and Harris’s reunion with his former LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was fruitful.
Harris ended up having one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 19.5 points per game thanks to his most efficient shooting yet. He just missed out on the exclusive 50-40-90 club with shooting splits of 51-39-89, and he was the perfect final piece of the Sixers’ top trifecta alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Of course, you don’t win anything in the regular season, and the NBA playoffs are what matter for the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
Thanks to this outstanding season, Tobias Harris has moved beyond the ranks of a mere x-factor into the realm of a reliable key cog for a championship contender. What you want from your x-factor is to be a secret weapon, something that you can count on for occasional surprise standout performances, and who can win matchups with opposing role players on a consistent basis.
Rather, Harris is the third of a Big 3 for the Sixers, a player who has become so reliable that standout performances are no longer unique, but de rigueur instead.
Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz are x-factors. Tobias Harris is somebody who can score 37 points on 29 shots like he did in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs against the Washington Wizards when Joel Embiid was sidelined with foul trouble.
In the first three games against the hopelessly overmatched Wizards, Harris is averaging 25.3 points on 57.1 percent shooting, and taking 18.7 shots per game. Instead of being a player who delightfully surprises you when he shows up and plays well, that’s simply become Tobias Harris’s baseline this season.
The work isn’t quite done yet against the Wizards, with at least one more game left to play. The path forward throughout the rest of the NBA playoffs only gets harder, but this is who Tobias Harris is now. It’s time to update our perceptions of him and get used to the idea that he’s a consistent difference-maker at the highest level.