Sixers

Harris’ Contract Not the Main Problem for Philly

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Fans toss around blame after every disappointing season of any sport. Coaches take the blame, front offices take the blame, and players take the blame.

Sometimes, this blame is warranted. The problems appear so clear that they can’t help being noticed. Other times, the blame is a knee-jerk reaction that tends to become an overreaction. Such is the case with the blame being placed around the Philadelphia 76ers’ early playoff exit this season. In the weeks following Philly’s sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, social media lit up with reactions, and every armchair GM suddenly had the solution to Philadelphia’s problems.

 

Again, some of this hate warrants itself. Brett Brown’s inability to outcoach playoff teams hurt Philadelphia again. Al Horford’s four-year, $109 million contract gained quite a few head scratches. One thing is clear: Tobias Harris’s contract is not the problem.

The Trajectory

The 76ers signed Harris to a five-year, $180 million contract during free agency in 2019. A deal met with mixed reactions, some fans thought Philadelphia should’ve offered a max contract to keep Jimmy Butler instead. Regardless, the front office saw good upside in Harris and moved forward with that deal.

Butler aside, the deal made sense. Harris’s improvement in PPG over the last few years, his ability to shoot from deep, and his durability looked like great qualities for a Philadelphia team who lost their sharpshooter in JJ Redick. Tobias seemed poised to continue that upward swing, and for much of the 2019-2020 season, he did just that. His defense improved, 3PT% remained high, and he continued to possess the intangibles of a good leader. With Tobias still being young, there’s reason to believe this improvement will continue.

Harris nearly earned all-star honors this year, the closest he’s ever been to that level. 2020 marked only the third time Tobias reached the playoffs. He went in 2016 with the Detroit Pistons — where the team was totally outmatched by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers — and in 2019 with Philly. Improvement comes with more playoff experience, and Tobias gained that again this year.

Player Comparisons

While some argue that Tobias is overpaid, his contract is right on par with others who average similar numbers. He ranks as the 18th highest paid player in the NBA, one spot above Khris Middleton, and near Kevin Love. Middleton and Harris have nearly identical career PER, and comparable PPG and 3PT%.

Love, slightly lower on the list, continues to decline despite having three more years on his contract. In today’s NBA, big names warrant big contracts, even if they don’t stuff the stat sheet with 30 points per game. If Philadelphia didn’t offer Tobias this deal, he would’ve gotten it from another team. That would mean no solid three-point shooter, and no returns from the trade that brought Tobias to Philadelphia two seasons ago.

The 76ers face many questions ahead of next season. The head coaching search and shopping for players to find pieces that fit better with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons continues. One aspect that doesn’t need to be addressed, however, is the contract of Tobias Harris. He is still climbing to his peak, and will be a valuable asset in the future for this franchise.

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About Dave Pedron

As a Pennsylvania native, Penn State grad, and diehard Sixers fan, I'm very excited to cover the team and usher in the next chapter of the Process.

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