Sixers Ship Tobias Harris to Orlando in High-Upside Proposed Trade

Tobias Harris, Sixers

Getty Paolo Banchero #5 of the Orlando Magic goes to the basket against Tobias Harris #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers in the second half of a game at Amway Center on November 27, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

The Philadelphia 76ers have not looked to be the finished product it was hoped to start this season. Their 12-12 record and inconsistent play have not lived up to expectations. With an open roster spot and numerous moves made with financial flexibility in mind, Daryl Morey seems to have some moves in mind. With December 15th kicking off the unofficial start to trade season, as players signed this summer are now eligible to be traded, talks are expected to begin heating up. Mike O’Conner of the Rights to Ricky Sanchez proposed an interesting trade to help solve some of the Sixers’ issues. As O’Conner wrote:

Sixers Get: Jonathan Isaac, Gary Harris, Terrence Ross

Magic Get: Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, 2027 second round pick

“Isaac, when healthy, is an unbelievably dynamic defensive player who can lock up on the ball and fly around the court cleaning up mistakes off the ball. In terms of raw ability, he is an incredible fit on this roster, and if he’s the player he was in 2019-20, he would start on this team hands down. But obviously, questions about Isaac’s health and general makeup should come into play… but game-changing defensive wings are hard to come by. Isaac is likely the only player in the league who A) has a chance to transform your team’s defensive identity, and B) could be obtainable for Tobias Harris.

Gary Harris and Terrence Ross have also faced a variety of health issues in recent years, but are two quality bench players who would certainly factor into the Sixers’ rotation if healthy,” written by Mike O’Conner of the Rights to Ricky Sanchez.

Why This Deal Makes Sense For Sixers

Led by Joel Embiid, the Sixers have made it clear that they want defense to be their identity this season. They have shown some impressive flashes, such as leading the NBA in defensive rating during the month of November, but it should be noted that this success occurred with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey off the court. While this backcourt duo is incredibly dynamic on the offensive end, Harden oftentimes checks out defensively and Maxey is simply undersized in most matchups. While Maxey has admittedly taken some strides forward defensively, his upside as a defender is not much higher than the level he currently plays at.

This means that the players surrounding this guard duo cannot just be adequate defensive players, but rather ones that can make up for their deficiencies. Embiid certainly fits this description and when playing at his peak is in the conversation for one of the best two-way players in NBA history let alone active players. However, this effort has not occurred on a consistent enough basis and this is infectious to the rest of the team when he is not all the way locked in.

While P.J. Tucker has done an impressive job defending some of the toughest matchups in the NBA, he is not a guy who necessarily makes up for others’ weaknesses. Tobias Harris has improved a great deal on the defensive end during his Sixers tenure but also isn’t a player who raises the Sixers’ ceiling in this area.

Jonathan Isaac is this type of player as he stands 6’10” with a wingspan over seven feet and the agility to move with guards on the perimeter. However, he has not stepped on an NBA basketball court since 2020. The former 6th overall pick in the 2017 draft has battled several notable knee injuries which have held him out for this time. This is a pretty significant red flag, but it is incredibly difficult to attain the level of defensive player Isaac is capable of being, especially with the limited assets the Sixers have. It should be noted he also has begun his return to play process and has started practicing with the Magic’s G League team this week.

During the last season he played in the NBA, Isaac averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.4 steals in his 28.8 minutes per game. He also shot 34.0% from beyond the three-point line on 2.8 attempts per game. Still just 25 years old, Isaac seems to be out of Magic’s long-term picture with intriguing positionless prospects such as Paolo Banchero, Bol Bol, and Franz Wagner each leapfrogging him on the depth chart. Terrance Ross and Gary Harris have seemingly been in trade rumors forever, but both would be more balanced two-way role players than the Sixers currently possess.

Would Magic do the Deal?

The Magic are firmly in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes as they have an NBA-worst 5-20 record and are in the midst of a rebuild. They are loaded with young talent and a position to take risks on players just as they did by trading for former Sixers first-overall pick Markelle Fultz following his shoulder injuries. If they believe in Matisse Thybulle’s potential, it would provide an opportunity for him to play through his mistakes more which is not currently the case with the Sixers. Although he also is in the final year of his rookie deal which may not work in Philadelphia’s favor.

With an average age of 23.4 years old, the mindset of bringing in Harris would be to begin creating a culture. One could argue this was one of the shortcomings of the Sixers’ Process era as the organization did not bring in veterans for most of the youthful years. Harris is one of the best locker room guys across the entire league and spent four seasons in Orlando near the beginning of his career. Both Ross and Harris are veterans the Magic will certainly test the market on as they are best served on a contender. While it is possible the Sixers may get outbid due to their lack of draft picks, it is worth a phone call.

Harris deserves a ton of credit for adjusting his role to fit the Sixers’ needs, but he simply is not an exact fit for what the team needs. He has improved as a catch-and-shooter and has stepped up in some moments while the team was shorthanded, but it is tough to argue he raises the ceiling of this Sixers team drastically. Taking a flyer on a player like Isaac could very well prove to be the low-risk high-reward deal that makes things click for this uninspiring Sixers team.

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