No matter how well you play on an individual level in the NBA, when your team only wins 23 games something isn’t quite right. As it would happen for both the Orlando Magic and Tobias Harris, one of their better players, this was totally expected. That doesn’t make losing all right, but on a rebuilding team there is more tolerance towards it. With that in mind let us take a look at how Tobias Harris got on in the pinstriped blue this year.
Before we look at the statistics, it is worth noting that Harris has just completed third season in the league, and he is still only 21 years old. As his numbers will back up shortly, that kind of upside to a player who is already familiar with the professional game at such a young age is so exciting to franchises and fans alike. A jump in output next season, when he could begin to reach veteran status at 22 on a Magic team so young, could see this guy as the main building block for this team going forward. The former Milwaukee Buck had statistically his best season in the pros, hitting new heights in almost all of the categories that matter. His points (14.6), rebounds (7.0) and assists (1.3) were all young career highs. His player efficiency rating (PER) of 16.5 (league average is 15) was also the highest number he’s posted and shows no signs of slowing down either. It is his scoring though, that needs a closer look.
During the regular season, the Magic scored 96.5 points a game, good for 25th in the league. Obviously this a poor output, but the reality is that this team doesn’t have an offensive juggernaut who can stack up buckets in a hurry. So that mantle fell to guard Arron Afflalo this season, and to his credit he took on that role as best he could. However, Harris’ points per game when put into the total average team points means he was contributing one-sixth of the scoring on a nightly basis himself. Maybe not a massive deal to some but certainly it shows he is capable of having the offense run through him next year. At less than 7 feet tall and with a neat jump shot, that admittedly does need some polishing, Harris can become a forward who stretches the floor for teammates really well. So although the best is probably yet to come in terms of how he can contribute offensively, it is worth noting that this year saw Harris build the foundations of being a major scoring factor to this team, something it desperately needs.
Of the 61 games he played this year, Harris only started 36 through various injuries. While some may say that this shows that he failed to find any consistency to his game, it can also be spun in a positive way. To post career highs while only starting so few games is nice, but it also speaks of a player who is capable of influencing games either from the start of the game or when his number is called. In fact, what’s probably more impressive here is his work off the bench. People forget this, but coming into a game and being expected to make a contribution right away is hard. Every contest is different, and it can take time to get a feel for the ebb and flow of the game. Harris was a key contributor of the bench when he started from there, which means he can be utilized in a number of ways and still be productive, that kind of versatility being hard to find in this league.
His free throw percentage of .807 is healthy as well, and getting to the line an average of four times a game with that shooting touch from the charity stripe equals easy points for a team that finds scoring difficult to do. Looking at knocks in his game, it is generally still a bit raw, but there is no questioning the talent. When he’s not feeling it on any given night too he has a tendency to drift through games, his 30.3 minutes often going by with little to show for it. The kid has heart though, and brings many of the intangibles to the table that coaches love. There is a reason Orlando insisted on having him in the Dwight Howard trade after all. At this junction, his career could still go a number of ways, but the feeling right now is that Orlando could have something special here.
His numbers are up and he has made contributions both as a starter and a bench player, so really this has been a good year for Tobias Harris. The word good is viewed as maybe a safe and pedestrian phrase, but that’s the reality with Harris right now. He didn’t do many things wrong (1.3 turnovers a game is a nice low number) and he did a lot of things on the court to a decent standard. That is good for this team, nothing more. With both rookie Victor Oladipo and Afflalo getting the headlines in what few good days there were for this losing team, Harris has had to carve out a spot for himself by playing hard. He has done this, and right now stands as one of the most promising talents in the league. Orlando is delighted to have him, and with hopes of making a jump up the standings next year, they will be hoping Tobias Harris comes to training camp a motivated and vastly improved player. Remember he is a solid player already, but he looks like he could have that magic touch within him still to come out, a tasty thought for this team heading into a big campaign next year. Orlando is lucky to have this guy and his potential, it is now about making sure it comes to fruition with this team.