Sixers Waive Wing Despite Strong Defensive Showing

Shaq Harrison Sixers

Getty Shaquille Harrison of the Philadelphia 76ers defends the Detroit Pistons' Trey Lyles.

The Philadelphia 76ers made a roster move on Saturday, shedding the player who may have been their best preseason defender.

Per an announcement from the team, the Sixers have officially waived veteran guard/forward Shaquille Harrison. Over four preseason games with the club, Harrison averaged 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per contest.

Although he is no longer on Philly’s main roster, the 28-year-old may still find himself in a Sixers uniform again this season. As reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey and others, Harrison is expected to join the team’s G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.

Harrison’s Defense Was off the Charts During Preseason Play

Harrison didn’t bring much to the table offensively during his exhibition run, connecting on just 40.9% of his field-goal attempts and going 0-of-3 from three-point range. He also struggled at the free-throw line, making only 36.4% on 11 attempts.

That he struggled offensively didn’t come as much of a surprise, though. In his four years as an NBA player, he’s logged an effective field-goal percentage of just 46.7. Consequently, Harrison has bounced between four different teams.

On the flip side, though, the Tulsa product has been a plus defender throughout his career. And with the Sixers, he was off the charts as a perimeter defender.

Harrison’s 2.8 steals per game led the team by a significant margin, and he managed that number in relatively short spurts of court time. Moreover, Sixers opponents essentially couldn’t score when Harrison played. During the 70 minutes that he was on the court, Philly conceded just 89.9 points per 100 possessions.

As with his gaudy steals average, that was the top mark on the team.

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A Fit for Philly

Although the Sixers are loaded with offensive weapons, defense has been Doc Rivers’ priority since he joined the team last year. That’s why the Sixers were able to jump from being eighth in the NBA in defensive rating in 2019-20 to No. 2 overall last season.

The mission will likely be the same again in 2021-22, and Harrison is exactly the kind of player who can help Philly along the way, even in limited action. In addition to his ability to play passing lanes, he plays bigger than he actually is and boasts an impressive wingspan that allows him to guard multiple positions.

He’s the kind of player you can throw out on an opponent’s best player and largely be satisfied with the result.

During his time with the Nuggets late last season, they allowed just 106.6 points per 100 possessions when Harrison was on the floor. That profound positive impact defensively is why he found himself on their playoff roster and matched up with Damian Lillard after not having been in the league previously.

In the end, he’ll have to show that he has some kind of offensive game if he wants to cement his spot in the Association. Until then, though, Harrison is a useful player to have in your system, and the Sixers appear to be going in that direction.


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