Tobias Harris Will Be An All-Star Snub But His Game is Fire

Tobias Harris is a different player this year for the much improved Detroit Pistons. He is a different player because his game has become more complex and versatile. The 25 year old Harris who has already played for three NBA teams (Milwaukee, Orlando, Detroit) finds himself on the cusp of a future that elevates him to best scorer on the Pistons, the one player you have to stop.

Harris has always been an enigma. He has always given you just enough but nothing extraordinary. He’s never been an All-Star or even close. He’s never been All-NBA. He has a nice mid-range and can be streaky like scorers usually are. But this year what he has added to his game is what every team wants from their forward, a three point shot to open the floor and make penetration and pick and roll a piece of cake.

Harris is taking more threes than he took last year and he is draining them like he’s Kevin Durant.

3-Point Attempts (2017-18) 3-Point% (2017-18) 3-Point Attempts (2016-17) 3-Point % (2016-17)
Kevin Durant 6.4 38.2% 5.0 37.5%
Tobias Harris 6.1 45.0% 3.8 34.7%

It’s important to note that Harris has benefited from an improved Andre Drummond and the addition of Avery Bradley, a defensive hawk whose tough nature is infectious. Harris has risen to the occasion even if no one is really talking about what he is doing.

Part of the ho-hum Tobias Harris narrative is that he just doesn’t wow you. He’s quick but not Blake Griffin athletic. He has touch but his shot can get the flu when the pressure is on late in games. He is not driven to posterize or to humiliate players at the rim. He has a solid game. His defense is above average, but not sensational and his motor has always been questioned. He will never be Mr. Personality and so his sound bites aren’t worth cataloging.

But none of that past history matters when he’s the most trusted of all the Pistons on the offensive side of the ball. He should be an All-Star but he won’t be. LeBron James. Giannnis Antetokounmpo. Kevin Love. Joel Embiid. Kristaps Porzingis. Andre Drummond. They are all in front of him. But that’s not an indictment on what he has accomplished.

His numbers. He has played 33 games. He is taking (almost) the same amount of threes that Kevin Durant takes and he is draining them 45% of the time. (Durant is making 38% of his threes). His efg% is a career high and his 18.1 points per game is taking him where he has never been. His offensive rating of 117 is fire but his defensive rating is so-so whatever. He’s never going to be a shut down defender but at home he gives great effort. He has lazy habits on the road. Speaking of road woes, he must not like the rims because his three ball is wet at home, where he shoots 51%. The only area of the floor where he is not shooting 40% is 3-10 feet which in years past has been money for him.

Tobias Not the Same Points FG% 3point% Offensive Rating PER
2016-17 16.1 48.1% 34.7% 113 16.9
2017-18 18.1 46.0% 45.0% 117 17.7

Of the Pistons 34 games, in 14 of them Tobias Harris has shot over 50% from three. Durant has 12 (50%) from three games, and 6 (30) point games. Harris has 4 (30) point games. He is shooting 46% with less than three minutes left in the quarter and the same percentage when the score is within five points so he comes through under pressure which has been a criticism of Harris, him fading late. But, on the other hand, he hasn’t had a good December shooting the ball, just 40%, where November he shot 46%, and October 48%. Another let’s slow our roll on Tobias Harris is that against the Warriors he shot 33% and against the Cavs 40%.

But clearly Harris is doing what he had to do this year to make himself valuable. By becoming a stretch four he has added another sweet spot to his game. Harris is the 13th ranked small forward, Real Plus-Minus. His test will come in the playoffs where he has been known to underpeform and throw up bricks. Ball out after April and Tobias Harris is going to get one of those huge overpaid contacts in the summer of 2019.

The Pistons have a top-4 seed and are on pace for a second round playoff game, the first time that has happened since 2008.

The Pistons season is going just as Tobias planned.