Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Dynamic 24-year-old goalscorer floated in the Sixers lineup as Tobias Harris

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It’s fair to wonder what fans would think of Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris if he were to sign a contract other than his five-year, $180 million deal.

There are 16 players in the league who will earn more than Harris next season. That list includes the obvious: Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, etc. But it doesn’t include Joel Embiid, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, and Nikola Jokic.

Yes, Harris’ $37 million is a shadow under Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis. The only problem? Harris has never, ever, not even reached the finals. Or an all-star game. Or he’s taken home individual basketball awards since 2011, when he was named a second-team All-SEC as a freshman at the University of Tennessee.

Harris is not a superstar. He’s not even a star. He’s a reliable forward with an average jump shot who somehow landed a mega deal on par with the game’s greatest players.

But is it possible that Harris’ time as a starter in Philadelphia is coming to an end? It could be, if RealGM’s John Wilmes’ analysis is correct.

“There’s Embiid, and there’s the terrifyingly fast and amazing Tyrese Maxey,” Wilmes wrote on September 15, “plus newcomer De’Anthony Melton, a 24-year-old who is versatile and dynamic on the alert. Right in the middle is Tobias Harris, a burly and prolific wingman who’s been out for as long as Morey’s been around but remains in place nonetheless.

“Without Harris, the roster makes more theoretical sense: imagine Embiid’s and Tucker’s big frontcourt, complemented by the jarring contrast of Maxey’s and Melton’s athleticism, all orchestrated by Harden’s dazzling basketball brain.”

Harris’ game on the court hardly justifies a move to the bench, but if Melton shows the versatility many have come to expect, the Sixers could explore all of their options.

But it wouldn’t be the first time the Sixers have explored all of their options with Harris.

Over the summer, Philadelphia has been linked with several trade contenders, including Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant. But to get any nimble plays, the team would need to involve Harris given his contract situation and the Sixers’ otherwise utter lack of space.

And Heavy NBA insider Sean Deveney confirmed the Sixers are buying Harris this summer, with the kicker being the former Tennessee Volunteer’s contract.

“They exhausted all options for a Tobias deal,” a manager told Deveney. “They overpaid him and nobody wants that contract. This is exactly the situation they are in. They have said Tobias Harris is not being traded but the reality is he is not being traded because they couldn’t find a deal for him, not because they stopped trying.”

The Sixers are in a strange situation. If they go with the Harris-out-Melton-in lineup suggested by Wilmes, it could destroy Harris’ commercial value. But continuing to play Harris over other, better options could prevent the Sixers from reaching their championship cap.

Melton would bring two attributes to Philadelphia next season: defense and three-point shooting. He posted a career high of 41.1% out of three in 2020-21, but saw a slight drop to 38.1% in 2021-22.

He won’t be the Creator Guardian in Philadelphia’s lineup, but he probably doesn’t have to be either. The team already has two talented playmaker guards in their roster in James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. But Melton’s defense is able to make up for Maxey and Harden’s weakness.

“He’s quite comfortable defending 1-2.5 (think about 6ft 7 as a ceiling),” Liberty Ballers’ Jackson Frank wrote in June, “possesses fast hips and controlled his movements to move in the midst of.” stay connected to car chases. Led by lively, skillful hands, he touts a sharp playmaker instinct and amplifies it with quick ground coverage.”

Expect Daryl Morey and the rest of the Sixers staff to keep an eye on Melton’s continued development this season. Since Morey is known for his blockbuster trade deadline moves, Harris could stay in the trade block until the right suitor comes along.

“He’s quite comfortable defending 1-2.5 (think about 6ft 7 as a ceiling),” Liberty Ballers’ Jackson Frank wrote in June, “possesses fast hips and controlled his movements to move in the midst of.” stay connected to car chases. Led by lively, skillful hands, he touts a sharp playmaker instinct and amplifies it with quick ground coverage.”

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