Knicks Head Coach Calls Out Tobias Harris Amidst Rumored Interest in Sixers Forward

Tobias Harris Philadelphia 76ers

Getty Tobias Harris #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Amidst an excellent run 8-1 run, the clamoring by fans to trade Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris has predictably cooled. Harris’s play has been much improved of late, including a six-game stretch in mid-December in which he shot 42.9% on his nearly six attempted threes per game.

The solid play might have endeared Harris to the Sixers’ front office, but the love doesn’t end there. New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau recently dropped a take on what Harris adds to a team like the Sixers.

“I think you look at the team and, obviously, Embiid and Harden are probably established, but I always thought Tobias was one of the most underrated players in the league. Then when you add in, obviously with Maxey being out, but with the way Maxey’s developed, they’re a well-balanced team,” Thibodeau said recently, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire.

Thibs’ quote comes amidst speculation that the team he coaches, the Knicks, are interested in trading for Harris.

The Knicks’ Interest in Harris Revealed

According to Ian Begley of SNY, the Knicks kicked the tires on a potential Tobias Harris trade prior to the team’s eight-game win streak last week.

“The Knicks at least talked internally about the idea of acquiring Tobias Harris via trade before their winning streak started,” Begley said.” Obviously, Harris having a nice game against the Knicks on Christmas Day, Tom Thibodeau spoke highly of him before the game, so that’s just one name to keep an eye on. … I know that he does have some fans in the organization.”

Given Harris’ $37 million salary this season, the Knicks would have to do some major contract matching in order to pull off a move for Harris. That said, it’s difficult to image who on the Knicks Philadelphia would be interested in taking back.

The team’s best player (and most expensive), Jalen Brunson, isn’t going anywhere amid strong play and sneaky All-Star buzz. Ditto for Julius Randle, the team’s second-highest-paid player; though the Knicks of one year ago might have done just about anything to get off of Randle’s contract, the former Lakers forward is vastly improved this year.

That leaves two-guard Evan Fournier ($18 million) and Mitchell Robinson ($17 million) as the best contract-matching options. Fournier is having his worst season since he was a rookie in Denver, shooting just 33% from three. The Sixers could always use better three-point shooting, but as a bench option, the team’s resident flamethrower Georges Niang is a far better option.

And as a backup to Embiid, Robinson simply makes far too much money to join an already crowded reserve center pile.

Though the Knicks might not be the ideal trade suitor for Harris, that doesn’t mean the Sixers haven’t worked on deals with other teams.

Sixers ‘Have Talked’ to Rivals About Harris Deals

Harris’ inclusion on the trade block is nothing new. Ever since the ink dried on his massive contract extension in 2019, he’s seemingly been available to the highest bidder.

Nothing has changed this season, either.

“[The Sixers] have talked about [trading Harris] with other teams, they have gauged the market but not in a way where they are ready to trade him tomorrow,” an Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney. “Something like that could come together quickly, but they are not going to make a trade just to get rid of his contract, they’re only going to do something that brings an upgrade.”

Reading that line closely, there is a subtle difference this season than in years past. One year ago, the Sixers might have been willing to move Harris for on-court downgrades that opened up cap space.

But with Harris playing well, the Sixers have more leverage to seek better on-court fits, putting Harris-trade discussions in an otherwise unusual spot.

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