Tobias Harris needs to work better with Joel Embiid
According to Statmuse, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris played 108 games together for the Philadelphia 76ers.
During that tenure, which spanned most of two and a half seasons, Embiid and Harris led their team to the playoffs three times, made it to the second round twice and generated a 63 winning percentage. 3.
Overall pretty good. Not all-time great, not elite, but very good nonetheless.
Naturally, a lot of that success has to fall on the combined shoulders of Embiid and Harris, right? I mean, the duo have been the team’s two top scorers during that tenure and have combined to score 40 percent of their average points per game during their joint run at South Philly.
Whoa, whoa, whoa; not so fast, my friend. While this is technically true from a statistical standpoint, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid still haven’t quite fallen for the formula to fully play out on each other as effectively as possible. That could change in 2021-22, however, as the new look of the Philadelphia 76ers offense could lean much more on the front row pick-and-roll than in previous seasons.
Tobias Harris is set to become a full offensive player for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Tobias Harris has played just about every role you could have in the NBA.
He’s been a deep bench reserve relegated to garbage days, a rotating player with a defined role, and even a number one option in a pretty good Los Angeles Clippers team.
At times Harris has been asked to serve as a sniper, a role he has gotten pretty good at over the past few seasons. Other times, Harris has been tasked with getting points on the dribble like a cheaper Carmelo Anthony, which he’s just as good at even though he offers less value in today’s NBA.
Heck, during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Harris also turned out to be a damn good positional defenseman, although his reputation remains in the middle of the league.
But one thing Harris hasn’t really done with too much frequency, not with the Sixers anyway, is perform the pick-and-roll as a ball handler or screen passer.
In 2020-2021, Harris only performed about 4.4 pick-and-rolls per game; good for one about every four times he owned the ball. While Harris was pretty darn effective in running the game, as he scored on 45.6% of those workouts and landed in the 73rd percentile in the league, he felt much more comfortable shooting himself in. as a pilot, dribbler or catch-and-shoot lad.
Box: Is “fishy” a term for a marksman or a brutal attempt at alliteration? You decide.
Part of it surely had to do with Harris playing frequently alongside Ben Simmons. While Simmons has proven to be a viable screen on occasion, his inability to provide support as a wing shooter would often allow opposing teams to fill in the paint and make life difficult for the pride of the University of Tennessee.
Granted, Doc Rivers tried to alleviate those issues by playing Harris a bit more often with the second unit, but during the regular season he still averaged 26.6 minutes per game alongside Simmons against 5.9 on its own.
However, with Simmons effectively gone and even an average shooter like Tyrese Maxey taking his place, Harris will be much more free to drive to the basket with Embiid in the lead, a physically exposing sight we haven’t seen around those games since. Jon Ritchie was opening holes for Duce Staley.
On paper, the duo should be able to put together a hell of a good two-man game. Both can get a bucket from anywhere, both score over 60 percent within five feet of the basket and, more importantly, both are efficient free throw shooters who can shoot 86 percent of their shots. attempts in a given match.
Fun fact: Harris came within a percentage point of joining the exclusive 90-50-40 club for the first time in his career in 2020-21. Not too bad.
If Harris can become more comfortable running the show as the primary ball handler instead of a secondary offensive option, the sky is the limit of his potential to move forward, especially if he can rise. his precision as a passer.
Remember how Rivers would steer his attack on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George during his senior year in Los Angeles? This duo combined an average of 15.2 pick-and-roll discs per set, and each finished in the top 79th percentile in terms of efficiency.
No offense to Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac, but neither of them can stand up to Embiid as a goalscorer, defender or even a screen passer.
Some of Joel Embiid’s best stretches in the NBA came because he had a stranded attacking partner. He formed an elite two-player game with Jimmy Butler, set up screens for Shake Milton in his particularly powerful run in 2020, and had great success with pick-and-pops when paired with shooters like JJ Redick and Seth Curry. If Tobias Harris can put his name on the relatively exclusive roster, it will not only help the Philadelphia 76ers overcome the absence of Ben Simmons, but unlock a new wrinkle in Doc Rivers’ offense that was largely absent in 2021.