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Sixers’ $180 Million Man Called Out For Worst Contract

Things are heating up for the Philadelphia 76ers. The team has been the hottest team in basketball winning 18 of their last 22 and recently going 5-0 on their West Coast road trip. They have climbed to second place in the Eastern Conference and moved to 30-16 on the season.

In a dose of reality from Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report, Tobias Harris was listed as having the worst contract on the Sixers. With two years remaining and $76.9 million still on the table, Buckley wrote:

“Harris is a good player who’s paid more like a great one.

Maybe he could level up elsewhere, but he’s a fourth option in Philly who lacks standout skills beyond scoring,” per Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report.

Beautiful save by Harden

And man, if Tobias Harris can keep playing like this… pic.twitter.com/zcA2LpgKFR

— Siddharth (@JasonSidd) January 18, 2023

Harris’ Contract with Sixers

Oftentimes brushed over in the criticism of Harris’ contract is the context in which it was given out. The 30-year-old first arrived in Philadelphia during the 2018-19 season in a trade with the Clippers. He was looked at as the perceived missing piece and came about three months after the trade for Jimmy Butler.

.@JimmyButler scores a team-high 25 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in the Game VI win over Toronto.#PhilaUnite | #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/2pCcbfEeN8

— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) May 10, 2019

The Sixers poured in all their assets to surround the Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons duo with the necessary talent as they matured into the franchise cornerstones it was hoped. The 2018-19 Sixers cruised to a 51-31 record and finished third in the Eastern Conference. They fell in heartbreaking fashion to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in what was their greatest chance at a championship with this core to date.

Following the season, Butler elected to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. With the Sixers already using their assets to build a championship contender, they could not afford to lose Harris as well. After averaging 18.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in his 27 regular season games as well as 15.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in the postseason, the Sixers handed Harris a five-year deal worth $180 million in total.

Harris’ New Role with the Sixers

The high-value contract has always been the critique that overshadows Harris’ on-court ability. It is a criticism that he will never fully escape, but the Tennessee product deserves a ton of credit for adapting his role to fit the team’s needs.

Harris has seen his role change throughout his five seasons with the team. At times he has been looked at as the number two option, especially during Simmons’ holdout last year, while also seeing his role reduced to a more supplementary piece. This has especially been the case this season as the addition of James Harden and the emergence of Tyrese Maxey have limited his on-ball opportunities.

Despite having his role reduced, Harris has swallowed his pride and found a way to impact winning in the greatest way possible. His 19.4% usage rate is the lowest he has recorded since 2015-16 when he split time with the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons. Harris is attempting 38.8% of his shot attempts from beyond the three-point line this season which is the highest percentage he has recorded throughout his Sixers tenure. He also has shown a renewed passion on the defensive end and made a positive impact guarding some of the more impressive scorers across the NBA.

A look at Tobias Harris’ shot chart from 2018-19 (left) to so far this season (right)

It seems minimal but his ability and willingness to cut out some of the mid-range in favor of more statistically friendly shots has made a massive impact on the Sixers’ chances of winning pic.twitter.com/cdnzEDBUH1

— Sean Barnard (@Sean_Barnard1) January 23, 2023

While it is not ideal to have a three-and-D style of player on a near-max contract, it is not Harris’ fault for signing the deal that was offered to him. Rather, the veteran deserves credit for adjusting his style of play in a way that was necessary to help the team to the greatest extent. This is especially difficult considering the habits Harris had to break after a successful career was already in progress.

Despite the constant turnover within the Sixers organization and changing expectations for his on-court play, Harris has done a terrific job making a positive impact. He has been a model teammate and leader throughout his Sixers tenure while bringing a high-level effort to the court on a nightly basis. No, he will never be looked at as a bargain contract, but Harris is vital to this Sixers team’s success and has become an unsung hero on the team.

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