Joel Embiid is the undisputed “best player” on the Philadelphia 76ers. The two-time MVP runner-up is coming off another excellent season in which he became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal to win the league’s scoring title.
Second in the pecking order is James Harden. The former MVP might be a step slower than his Rockets days, but is still a magical playmaker who averaged a double-double last season. Philadelphia’s third-best? Probably Tyrese Maxey: the electric two-guard who shot over 42% from three last season.
Finally, we get to Tobias Harris. Harris is the team’s solid and reliable fourth option, a luxury considering he would likely be higher on many other rosters. Unfortunately, the Sixers aren’t paying Harris like he’s “reliable.” Philadelphia is paying him like he’s a top-20 player in the league; the forward is entering the fourth year of a five-year, $180 million deal.
It’s because of that awful talent-contract size ratio that Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey rated Harris’ contract the “worst valued” one on the team.
“Even understanding that a new extension for Joel Embiid kicks in 2023-24, it’s pretty wild to think that Tobias Harris is the highest-paid player on a team featuring Embiid and Harden,” Bailey wrote on September 24.
“Last season, he posted a 0.0 box plus/minus that suggests he was exactly average. This season, even if he bounces back a bit, he figures to be the fourth-best player on the team (behind the aforementioned superstars and Tyrese Maxey).
“Paying nearly $40 million for the No. 4 man in the pecking order can make the rest of the team-building question tricky (unless you have a superstar who takes a multimillion-dollar pay cut).”
As Bailey noted, the Sixers got a major boost when Harden took a pay cut to help fill out the roster. And while Harris’ contract situation is hardly team-friendly and he’s posted regressive numbers over his last two campaigns, everything is in place for him to excel next season.
The 76ers Are ‘Optimal’ for Harris to Succeed
On September 23, Jackson Frank of Liberty Ballers provided a preseason assessment of Harris’ game. And while the stat-sheet might not look promising for a Harris resurgence, Frank begged to disagree.
“Whether it’s punishing slow-footed bigs on drives or exploiting smaller defenders inside, he’ll cook as a mismatch scorer. Almost everything else will be derived from whatever the pillars of the offense fashion. His assimilation to that reality came to fruition late last year.
“On both ends, the 2022-23 Sixers are close to an optimal context for Harris to be as good as he’s ever been. He may have garnered some All-Star buzz in 2020-21, but this is the year for him and the last 30 games he played a season ago suggest he’s fully prepared to deliver,” Frank wrote.
Frank isn’t the only one to argue that Harris could be a fringe All-Star candidate next season.
76ers Predicted to Have Four All-Stars Next Season
The Sixers have two virtual locks to make the All-Star game in Joel Embiid and James Harden. With Tyrese Maxey predicted to make his first All-Star game next season, that could bring Philadelphia’s magic number to three. But could an even more special fourth player be in the mix? According to Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley, the answer is yes.
“[Harris] has hovered around star-caliber production in the past but never gotten the call. That could change this season if he ups his efficiency, adds a pinch more volume and helps the Sixers to an NBA-best record before the All-Star break,” Buckley explained.