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2018-2019 Clippers Exit Interviews: Tobias Harris

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Tobias Harris didn’t finish the season with the Clippers, but gave them a lot in a short amount of time.

Los Angeles Clippers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Key Information:

Name: Tobias Harris (Tobi)

Age: 26

Years in NBA: 8

Position: Small forward/Power forward

Key Stats: In 55 games with the Clippers (all starts), Harris averaged 20.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 34.6 minutes per game, on 49.6/43.4/87.7 shooting splits.

2018-2019 Salary: $14,800,000

Future Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent

Summary:

Before the season began, Tobias Harris was the Clippers’ player that everyone had pegged to be the star of the team. Having turned down a 4 year, $80 million extension over the summer, it was clear that Tobias/his agent viewed him as a player who should get max money this summer. The question was: could Tobias play up to that level to really earn it?

The answer, for the most part, was “yes”. Tobias got off to a great start to the season, and his improved play from the season before was one of the reasons why the Clippers were briefly in 1st place in the Western Conference. In November, he put up numbers like a true star, averaging 22 points, 8.7 rebounds, and shooting a monstrous 54.4/47.8 from the field and three-point line. His hooting numbers dipped somewhat over the next two months, though they remained very strong, and his rebounding fell off a bit too. Nonetheless, he was widely (if incorrectly) viewed as the Clippers’ best player, and was the only player on the team to get real All-Star consideration.

While Tobias was not one of the problems in the December-January starting unit, his (and Danilo Gallinari’s) inability to lift the starters to respectability was troubling for a guy who wanted max money this summer. It’s possible that was part of the reason why he was quietly put on the trade market, or perhaps the Clippers had never intended to pay him in 2019. Either way, out of nowhere, on a late night two days before the trade deadline, Woj dropped the bomb that Tobias (along with Mike Scott and best bud Boban Marjanovic) was being sent to Philly for a huge package. Tobias played out the rest of the season for the Sixers, and while his shooting has been mostly off there, he’s been a significant reason for their being tied 2-2 in the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs against the Toronto Raptors. There have been some down points, but Tobias has had the best season of his career, and is a lock to get a massive deal this summer.

Strengths:

Tobias was one of the best shooters in the NBA in his time with the Clippers, hitting 43.4% of his threes on 4.7 attempts a game. He didn’t hit a ton off the dribble, but provided a ton of spacing when Lou Williams or Danilo Gallinari handled the ball, and was able to thrive as a secondary and tertiary ballhandler. His increased aggression led to a spike in free throw attempts, taking 4.0 per game compared to 2.5 the year before, and on fewer shot attempts. Due to his improved shooting and free throw trips, Tobias scored on incredible efficiency, with a remarkable 60.2 TS%. Anyone who can score 20 points per game on such great efficiency is a very valuable offensive player, and Tobias certainly was that for the Clippers this season.

Perhaps Tobias’ biggest step forward this season was on the glass. A large, strong player, Tobias’ rebounding had been relatively low the past few seasons, and he made a point of emphasis on hitting the glass hard this year. He pulled down 7.9 rebounds per game, a very solid number, especially for a team that struggled to rebound much of the season. That rebounding enables Tobias to play more as a small-ball power forward instead of at small forward, which helps him on both ends of the court.

Tobias is a very good basketball player, with few blatant weaknesses. He’s at least solid defensively on most matchups, can hit shots from every spot on the court, and is an able enough passer. But as good as he is on the court, he’s even better off the court and in the locker room. Sixers coach Brett Brown referred to him as a “perfect teammate”, and he’s been well-liked on every team he’s been a part of. The Clippers adored Tobias as a person, as he was a great fit with their tough, underdog mentality they’ve cultivated over the past couple years. Off the court, Tobias does a ton of charity work and community service, and might be the favorite to win the “NBA Community Cares” award. He’s a great person and teammate, and that matters a lot.

Weaknesses:

While Tobias has improved his pick and roll game, he’s still not elite at being able to create his own shot yet. His handle is decent for a large forward, but it’s mostly functional rather than a true plus. Tobias does have a quickness edge against most power forwards, but lacks it against smaller players, and often has to shoot over the top instead of getting to the rim. He did get the line more for the Clippers, but still didn’t do so nearly as much as most star wing players. Tobias is a great third option and a pretty solid second option behind a true superstar, but he’s not a true go-to option right now.

Tobias stepped up as a rebounder this season, but did not do so as a playmaker. He’s not a gunner, and can dish solid passes, but he doesn’t play guys open at all, and usually only makes simple passing reads. Only the very best scorers can become top-tier offensive options without being advanced passers, and Tobias just isn’t at that level. His passing is probably the thing that most needs to improve for him to be a top-level offensive player. Defensively, Tobias is just ok. He’s a solid presence in the post against bigger players, and is size can make him a decent help defender. Tobias plays with good effort and is usually in the right spots on the floor. The problem is that he’s just not that quick laterally, and can’t keep in front of smaller players on the perimeter. Tobias can be a part of strong defensive lineups, but will never be one of the players powering such a unit.

Future with Clippers:

It’s highly unlikely that Tobias will return to the Clippers any time soon. He’s going to get a large, long-term contract this summer, and it won’t be with the Clippers, who are after bigger fish. The Clippers loved Tobias, who’s one of the best people and teammates in the NBA, and it’s possible he comes back to LA at some point in the future. But this summer, it’s likely he either stays with the Sixers, or signs with another team looking for a second-tier kind of star (Jazz, Mavs).

Overall Season Grade: A-

While Tobias didn’t quite maintain the All-Star level he was at for the month of November, he was still a very good player for the Clippers, and one of the biggest reasons for their surprising season. Not only did his play help get them off to a good start, but his getting swapped for Landry Shamet provided another building block for the Clippers’ future as well as someone who already gave the Clippers huge moments down the stretch and in the playoffs. Tobias was able to improve in several crucial areas, notably rebounding and getting to the line, and is fully worthy of the contract he will receive this summer. Tobias Harris was only a Clipper for just over a year, but became beloved by fans in that period, and will always be remembered for his part in this era of Clippers basketball. Good luck, Tobi!