Despite the slow start to the year, there are plenty of things the Philadelphia 76ers have to be thankful for this season. Joel Embiid has returned to his MVP self and has been vital to turning things around before missing the past two games. James Harden also looks to have more pop in his game after an offseason filled with conditioning and rehab but is recovering from his tendon sprain. Tyrese Maxey seems to have taken his game to another level in his third season before his foot injury. De’Anthony Melton has also captured the hearts of fans and exceeded expectations after coming to Philadelphia in a trade this offseason.
However, Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report took a different view when writing about the one thing each NBA team has to be thankful for. He acknowledged the recent string of play from Tobias Harris and stated:
“Every win will feel like three during what’s sure to be a brutal stretch for the injury-plagued Philadelphia 76ers, and that’s why Tobias Harris’ effort in a 115-106 victory over the healthy Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday meant so much.
Harris finished with 24 points, several of which came after he barely managed to walk off the floor under his own power following an ugly ankle sprain. If that weren’t enough, Harris had missed the previous two games with a sore left hip, which he, of course, visibly tweaked during the post-ankle sprain portion of the contest. Improbably, the Sixers survived without Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.
Often maligned for his contract (not his fault!), Harris should be appreciated for accepting a fourth-option role on the infrequently seen healthy version of this team. He showed Tuesday that he’s capable of more when called upon, even when everyone would have forgiven him for bowing out,” written by Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report.
Harris is Stepping Up
After a slow start to the season by the Sixers as a whole, the string of injuries puts them in a difficult situation. They currently sit at 9-9 and are tied for 7th place in the Eastern Conference. While it could be worse considering the circumstances, Philadelphia must be careful not to let its record slip further while its main stars are out. There is plenty of time left in the season, but putting their backs against the wall before they even reach the All-Star break would be far from ideal.
Harris has answered this call thus far and has been vital to the team staying afloat. After seeing his role minimized from what he has traditionally played, the Tennessee product has stepped right back into the spotlight. This performance against the Nets was the highlight of the season where he tallied a season-high 24 points in addition to six rebounds and three assists.
Over the last two games without Embiid, Harden, and Maxey, Harris has attempted over 20 shots in each game. These are the only times all season that this has been the case. He also saw his usage rate increase from 19.6% on the season to 27.7% over the past two matchups.
Harris Role on Sixers
On the season as a whole, Harris is averaging 15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. This scoring output is the fewest he has produced since the 2015-16 season when he was with the Orlando Magic. It should be noted that this is a product of Harris’ role within the Sixers’ offense and not due to him regressing.
The 11-year veteran has made some necessary adjustments in his game to fit what the team needs. He is attempting 5.3 three-point attempts per game so far this season which is the most he has throughout his entire time with the Sixers. Harris has embraced a more off-ball role on the offensive end and taken on additional defensive responsibilities to fit what the Sixers need.
It will be interesting to see how Harris’ role shifts as the Sixers begin to get healthy. For the time being, he will be vital to the team’s success and put this on display in back-to-back matchups. Oftentimes over-hated for his high-value contract, Harris has been an ideal teammate and one of the stable points of the franchise. Even amid the trade rumors, Philadelphia will be in need of the production he brings both in the short term and for as long as he remains a member of the Sixers.