Sixers fans expected the front office to make a substantive move before the trade deadline, and anything less would have been disappointing. Thankfully, Elton Brand spared us all of that anxiety this morning when he traded our 2020 1st round pick, the Miami 2021 1st round pick, two future 2nd rounders, Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, and Wilson Chandler for Tobias Harris and Boban Bogdanovic.
The highlight of this package is Tobias Harris, who averages 21 points and 8 rebounds as the Clippers best player. At 26 years old Harris isn’t even in his prime and already has a versatile offensive package that allows him to attack a defense in just about every way imaginable.
The Sixers offense has by-and-large been the Embiid, Simmons, Redick, and Butler show. When all or most of these players are on the floor, their lineups rank as some of the best in the league. When only one or two are on the floor, defenses have been able to key in on our stars and funnel the ball toward our weak cast of role and bench players.
Adding Harris to that mix allows Brett Brown to have offense on the floor that can attack you from a variety of ways through all 48 minutes—not just when the starters are out there.
Here are some of the ways Harris will open up the Sixers offense.
Either Harris will be afforded comfortable spacing playing next to Embiid & Simmons, or, Embiid & Simmons will see a lot less help and fewer double teams because of Harris. More than likely it’ll be a little of both.
Where Muscala, Chandler, and Saric were exploited for their poor three-point shooting, Harris is a threat. He’s shooting 42% on 5.2 attempts per game over the past two seasons.
For perspective on the type of shots that he’ll be replacing, Mike Muscala led the NBA in frequency of field goal attempts defined as “wide-open,” with 62% of his shots occurring with the nearest defender 6+ feet away. Of those looks, the majority came from three where he connected at a rate of just 34%. That’s bad.
Translation: there isn’t another player in the league who opposing defenses were more willing to let shoot than Muscala, and this was a problem that existed for the Sixers’ forwards long before this season. Insert Harris and either he’ll exploit those open looks, or defenses will no longer allow them to be open—thus freeing up Simmons, Embiid, and Butler.
Harris is truly the offensive addition that can put opposing defenses in the type of spacing bind that the league’s top offenses create on every possession, and that the Sixers have sorely lacked for the entire Embiid-Simmons era.
With this trade and the new starting lineup, any possession that used to end with the defense-preferred shot from Muscala, Chandler, etc… will now end in the hands of Harris. If teams aren’t comfortable with that then they can chose to leave one of Embiid, Simmons, Redick, or Butler open—pick your poison.
Another option to run an offense through
Adding Tobias Harris obviously brings a lot more to the offense than adequate spacing. Harris is a beast in the mid and low post—he can beat his man with a variety of moves both with his back to the basket and facing up. Additionally, his combination of quickness and size allows him to be a mismatch for essentially any wing or big who doesn’t match his physical profile.
While he won’t get as much attention from defenses here in Philly as with the Clippers, he’s a more than capable passer who does a good job of protecting the ball.
His handles are impressive for a bigger forward, and that allows him to attack off the perimeter when he’s not shooting. He’s near unstoppable when he’s able to turn the corner and get downhill, and he’s capable of finishing at tough angles.
In terms of creating good offense out of isolation, Harris could very well be more effective for the Sixers than Jimmy Butler has. He was the number one option in LA and their entire offensive system was built around him. Simply put, he gives Brett Brown one more player to run his offense through beyond Embiid, Simmons, Butler, & Redick.
His ability to ‘be the man’ on offense, while also fitting well as an auxiliary piece makes him the perfect fit to add to our nucleus. He’s not the biggest name out there, but he could very well be the player to finally take the top off the Sixers offense.