So far this season, the Orlando Magic have had their share of highs, but mostly lows. Whether it be the dreadful record they are lugging around or the hammerings they have received, there has always been that sprinkling of good to keep the team going. In most cases, this has been the promising core of Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic or Victor Oladipo having impressive nights that usually still end in a loss. Given how this team is still a long term project, all of these things stated above are acceptable, as long as fans see that the team at least tries on a nightly basis and also slowly gets better. With all that being said though, what exactly has happened to forgotten man Tobias Harris?
Harris, who landed in Orlando from the Milwaukee Bucks last season, had a surprising burst of form once he put the Magic jersey on. Not that everybody was surprised, although he was buried on the Buck’s roster, there were those who felt that, given more time and minutes, he could develop into a tasty player. The fact he wore the No. 12 jersey vacated by former hero Dwight Howard endeared him to the crowd even more right away. In 27 games for the Magic last year, 20 of which he started, Harris averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 36 minutes, providing instant pop for a team left in disarray following the departure of the aforementioned Howard. Through 13 games this campaign, nine of which the former University of Tennessee player has started, he is averaging 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest. This is happening while he averages six minutes on the floor less than he did last year, in what has been a bit of a disappointment who were hoping to see the player kick on from a promising maiden (half) season with the team.
It is unfair to totally slate Harris however, as injury is essentially the main factor for this. A high ankle sprain early into preseason workouts robbed him of the first five weeks of the year and since then, any return to action has been marred by pain in that same ankle. So at this point he is still getting used to new teammates, new sets and the groove of playing competitive basketball. Again, given that this is pretty much a lost season anyway, Harris should take all the time on the shelf he needs to come back a fitter and stronger player. The flip side of that however, is the fact that it would have been nice to actually be able to play and learn from the many losses this team are experiencing right now. There is little pressure on this Magic team to succeed as well, so Harris could have played with a certain fearlessness that would have sped up his development on court. He will be back to help this Magic team when he is ready to, and given how the center of this team is already very promising, it could make for a lovely bonus that the team did not know it could rely on.
But yet there are those fears. Harris is only 21 and starting out his journey in the league. But if his durability is already an issue at this early stage of his career, does that make him a sound building block for the future? It is jumping the gun a lot of course, it is not like he has messed his knee up or done serious damage to any part of his body, but it has taken his body a long time to heal a sprained ankle. To have gotten over the Christmas hump and still be hampered by a sprain that happened in preseason is a red flag, albeit a small one at this moment in time. More and more we are seeing stars downed by injury, forcing the hand of their teams as a result. Trade Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook? No way, at least not yet. But the nature of their serious injuries require a team to now look at every possibility, even the ones they wish they didn’t have to. Tobias Harris is not a star and he is not seriously injured either, but he is also not contributing to this Orlando Magic team right now. He is viewed by many as a key to the team’s future. Probably best not to make him too central to where this team is headed, at least not yet. A lot of improvement needs to be seen on the court and in the medical report before that is the case.