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Tobias Harris: All-Star Snub?

It’s been a tough couple days for Tobias Harris. A few days after being left off the All-Star reserve team, Harris was forced out of Thursday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks early. The injury has been designated as a right knee contusion for now, and further testing has revealed no structural damage. Before he went out, Harris was having a rare bad game for him this season, going just 2/7.

This was right after he had a great game against the Raptors on Tuesday where he dropped an extremely efficient 23 points. The fantastic performance was perhaps a rub in the face of the coaches that didn’t select him to the All-Star reserves earlier that day. Since then there has been a lot of talk about how Harris is an All-Star snub, with Kevin Harlan even making mention of it while the Philadelphia 76ers battled the Mavs. But was he really?

Was Tobias Harris Snubbed?

Short answer is probably not. Long answer is yes his stats are great, but this year has had too many people playing incredible for him to make it unfortunately. Refer to this article from NBCSports. No one with Tobias Harris’ stats over a full season has ever missed an All-Star game. His 20.2 points on that incredible efficiency would make him a great candidate most years. He’s remarkably close to the vaunted 50/40/90 shooting line (he’s at 51/42/89) which only eight players have done before, whose names include the most legendary marksmen of all time. The problem is there are 77 players also doing things that deserve All-Star nods. 

At the end of the day, of the East All-Stars there’s not really anyone that Harris should clearly replace. Every single one of the Eastern Conference reserves are averaging more points (significantly in some cases) than Harris except fellow 76er Ben Simmons. The only argument he has is over the Celtics duo. Both are scoring five more points than Harris but are doing it on worse efficiency (by a lot in Tatum’s case) and both have less rebounds than Harris with slightly more assists. However both demand a lot more attention than Harris on offense. Sure you can argue Harris over one of them considering the Celtics are outside the playoffs right now and the 76ers are the top seed in the East. But it’s far from a sure thing.

Tobias By the Numbers

But let’s not let the fact that Harris isn’t an All-Star take away from the amazing season he’s having. I probably don’t need to tell you more about how good he’s been shooting the ball, but I will. There are only 13 players that score more than Harris and have a better true shooting percentage. Most of those guys have either won the MVP before or are currently in the MVP race. Not only has his offense been great, but he’s improved in every facet of the game.

He’s averaging the second most rebounds of his career (tied most offensive boards) and he’s assisting more than ever. He’s also playing solid defense. His DBPM is positive for the first time since 2015-2016, and his D-LEBRON (a new metric by the guys at Bball-Index) is currently in the 82nd percentile, meaning he’s playing better defense than 82% of the NBA right now. 

Harris has been a model of consistency, which helps the 76ers weather the many absences and rough games the others have. After struggling in the season opener, he has been consistently great (until yesterday when he got hurt). He had 20 or more points 16 out of 30 games, and only dipped below 15 twice. You could basically count on Harris to give you 18+ night in and night out. He has also shown up when it matters. He hit the clutch game winner to end the Laker’s 13 game win streak. He’s stepped up his game when Embiid isn’t in, despite the 76er’s terrible record without their big man. He averages 25 a game on even better shooting splits without the MVP favorite. One of the best examples was Harris’ 36 point 10 rebound double-double versus the Utah Jazz. 

What’s Different?

Harris is having the best year of his career so far. What’s been the cause? A large amount of the credit has to go to head coach Doc Rivers. He presided over Harris’ time with the Clippers, which was by far his previous best year. The main thing is Harris’ decision making. Not necessarily the decisions themselves, but the speed at which he makes them. Doc has said multiple times he wants Harris to make quicker decisions, whether shooting the ball or putting it on the ground quickly for an aggressive drive. We’ve seen that play out to great effect. Harris has been spending less time holding the ball on the perimeter or on meandering dribbles that end with mid-range shots. He’s driving with authority and finishing well. He also looks much more confident, which is helping in making those quick decisions with full commitment.

His shot chart is also ever so slightly better. He’s shooting less jumpers and more shots close range. 50% of his shots come from 10 feet and in, up from 45% last year. That’s due to his better driving yes, but he’s also been better posting up. Doc Rivers said in his pregame press conference last night that the two things Harris has improved on the most this year has been his post game and his defense. It’s certainly played out that way.

Hopefully Harris’ injury isn’t serious, but he will miss Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers before being reevaluated. And hopefully Harris can continue his stellar start. Harris has struggled in the playoffs and this is the perfect year to turn that around. Many thought Harris would never live up to the max deal the 76ers gave him. Turns out he just needed a Doc.

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