Tobias Harris: The All-Star caliber player that rarely gets mentioned

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images /

Tobias Harris is undeniably one of the best combo forwards in the league. Why is it that his talents often go unnoticed?

Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris has already played for four different teams throughout his seven seasons in the NBA. Initially seen as a traditional forward with an inconsistent jumper, Harris has developed into one of the most efficient players in the game while evolving into the perfect combo forward for the modern NBA.

Harris is a lethal offensive weapon at both the 3 and 4-spot, but still gets overlooked because of the sheer depth of the NBA right now and the lack of consistent team success he’s had.

With the departure of talents like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers, Tobias Harris will finally get the chance to prove what he’s capable of for a full season and will certainly be more valuable when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

A rough start

Harris started out his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks to the tune of just 11.4 minutes per contest. Not much changed his sophomore season, and the Bucks simply didn’t see a use for the young forward long-term.

After just 28 games, he was involved in a six-player trade that landed him on the Orlando Magic where he began to thrive. From the 2012-13 season up until 2016, he averaged a much improved 15.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on an efficient 46.3 percent shooting from the field and an improved 32.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Things were finally looking up and the future was bright until Harris was traded, once again, to the Detroit Pistons with just 27 games to go in the 2015-16 season. After a season and a half of averaging 16.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on an impressive 37.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc in Detroit, he was involved in a blockbuster trade for Blake Griffin and now sits in Los Angeles with a year left on his contract.

Harris has traveled much more than a lot of 25-year-olds have in the NBA. However, he’s currently in a position where he can finally prove to the world that he’s an All-Star caliber player. The 2018-19 season will be huge for his career.

The here and now

As of last season, Harris played just 32 games with the Clippers as a second option scorer to Lou Williams, but put up stats that rank him among the elite. Over that final stretch of the season, he averaged an impressive 19.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

He shot 47.3 percent from the field and an equally impressive 41.4 percent from behind the 3-point line. Harris attempted over five 3s per contest, but that’s still relatively low compared to the best 3-point shooters in the league.

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Yes, these numbers could be inflated due to the small sample size of games, but Harris averaged an eerily similar 18.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game on 45.1 percent shooting from the field and 40.8 percent shooting from 3 in Detroit during his 48 games there before he was traded to L.A.

To put this in perspective, Harris was one of six players in the entire NBA last season that averaged over 18 points and shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc. Those players include the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Klay Thompson and Karl-Anthony Towns. Furthermore, aside from Towns, Harris was the only one to achieve this goal on less than six 3-point attempts per night.

Tobias Harris is among some elite company and has proven his All-Star capabilities. Not only can he score with the best of the best, but he’s also proven to be a consistent rebounder at either forward slot and has been a fairly serviceable off-ball playmaker.

Harris has the tools to be a star

The young combo forward has some of the biggest upside in the league. At 25 years old and only now entering his prime, Harris is positioned on a team with only one other true scoring threat and the chance to elevate his game this season.

A 6’8″, 235-pound tank is a scary sight at any position. He’s athletic enough to stay in front of the opposition on the wing, he’s got an elite jumper with a lightning-quick release, above-average strength and the shared keys to the Clippers’ offense.

Harris is in a position where he has both the tools and the opportunity to blossom into a superstar. As the modern NBA shifts to the perimeter and small-ball oriented lineups, the athletically and physically gifted forward becomes more of a luxury.

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He’s the perfect combo forward for today’s NBA and can do virtually everything on the floor. If the young forward out of Tennessee can capitalize on his opportunity this season, he’s going to take the NBA by storm.