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Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections
After breaking out in the Magic’s last 27 games following the now-infamous J.J. Redick deal, which sent Tobias Harris from Milwaukee to Orlando at the trade deadline in 2012-13, expectations were high for him entering the 2013-14 season.
Unfortunately for Harris, he suffered a high ankle sprain during preseason and missed 21 of the Magic’s first 22 regular season games. During that timeframe, Orlando started Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo, and Glen Davis at the forward spots, and Magic fans wondered where Harris would fit in the lineup when he got healthy.
Coach Jacque Vaughn responded by bringing Harris off the bench for three games, easing him back into the rotation before reinserting him into the starting lineup at the small forward position. Not at power forward, where he thrived the season prior.
At small forward, Harris played well at times. He notched a 20-20 game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 24. And a few weeks later, Harris was a part of one of the most exciting game-winners in Magic franchise history when he made a game-winning dunk to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 7.
But Harris wasn’t completely effective at the small forward position. He looked out of sorts at times, especially on defense where he had trouble keeping up with speedier small forwards, and his dreadful 3-point shooting was a glaring problem.
It wasn’t until the Magic waived Big Baby in a buyout agreement on February 21, shortly after the deadline had passed, thus clearing the way for Harris to return full-time to his optimal role — a small-ball power forward. But not as a starter.
With the emergence of Kyle O’Quinn, who became the Magic’s starting power forward in the final quarter of the season, Harris moved to the bench and was the team’s sixth man, where he excelled. Orlando’s second-unit offense centered around Harris, in which he was allowed to be the focal point. And his 3-point shooting improved, which aided in his ability to be an effective floor-spacing power forward.
Which leads into the upcoming season. With the signing of Channing Frye, who is projected to be the Magic’s starting power forward on opening night (assuming he fully recovers from his sprained MCL), the assumption is that Harris will remain a sixth man. You also have to assume that the Magic know that Harris’ best position is at power forward and they want to keep him there, especially with rookie Aaron Gordon manning the small forward position alongside Harkless.
The question is: how much is Harris worth? The major storyline for him entering this season is his contract situation. Along with fellow fourth-year player Nikola Vucevic, Harris is eligible for an extension — Oct. 31 is the deadline for the Magic to extend both players and prevent them from becoming restricted free agents.
Trying to guess a number for Harris is difficult, given those two factors, but Markieff Morris’ contract extension (four-year, $32 million) is a decent barometer for what Harris may command. Both are similar players in similar roles. It’ll be interesting to see how the Magic view Harris in their long-term plans (as a starter or sixth man), and how the NBA’s new TV deal impacts contract discussions.