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Tobias Harris played nearly 1,000 minutes for the Magic last season after being acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks in the J.J. Redick trade. But after the season was over, Harris was still somewhat of an unknown quantity. He was a stretch four that didn’t bring much stretch to the position, given that he shot only 31.0 percent from 3-point range. Instead, he thrived taking bulkier opponents off the dribble and aggressively attacking the rim.
He had stellar base numbers with Orlando, putting up 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks with a 17.0 PER — only six players in the NBA averaged those numbers for the 2012-13 season. But his .524 True Shooting percentage, a measure of efficiency, was below the league average (.536). And there’s also the question of how much of Harris’ production was just stat-stuffing on a bad team.
This season hasn’t done much to answer those questions. He had his start to the season denied by a high ankle sprain, and with so little news surrounding him, I nearly forgot he existed. In a 3-on-3 for ClipperBlog on who the best young Magic player would be, I honestly just forgot about Harris.
Harris is finally back in action, having his best game of the season so far against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, yet the questions remain. He’s flip-flopped positions from last season, now playing the majority of his time at small forward with Glen Davis healthy. His minutes per game are drastically down, but it’s unclear how much of that is the effect of him coming back from injury.
He’s yet to really breakout this season and is hounded by poor shooting, but more importantly, he doesn’t have an obvious role. Arron Afflalo is the cornerstone of the offense, mainly working off of isolations, post-ups, and screens. Victor Oladipo and Jameer Nelson spend most of their time running the pick-and-roll with the multitude of Magic big men, who are also the occasional recipients of post-ups. Fitting Tobias Harris in will be a clunky task for Jacque Vaughn.
The majority of Harris’ offense last year came on either isolations or post-ups, but there may not be enough touches for him with far more offensive options on the team this season. He’ll have to be the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll more often with his move to the three. That’s something Harris did only sparingly last season, as it accounted for just 2.7 percent of his offense, per Synergy.
The best option may be to keep him as a focal point in bench-heavy lineups, but it remains to be seen if that actually happens.
Harris showed awesome potential last season, but his status for this season hangs in doubt. The good news is that the Magic have another 55 games to figure out what type of player he is.