Not a few quarters took the Sixers to task shortly after the trade deadline, arguing that they overpaid just to pry erstwhile journeyman turned vital cog Tobias Harris from the Clippers. And, given the tenor of other deals for similarly valued assets, the criticism had basis. After all, such notables as Marc Gasol, Harrison Barnes, Otto Porter JR., and Nikola Mirotic changed jerseys without a single first-round pick involved in the process. On the flipside, though, no one in the City of Brotherly Love seems to think the two that general manager Elton Brand gave up could have been put to better use.
Considering that Harris has played all of two games since he changed addresses, the sample size is still too small for any definitive conclusion to be drawn either way. Nonetheless, the Sixers already have eyes toward the playoffs, and beyond. If anything, it’s precisely why they didn’t think twice about forking over the draft options they hitherto hoarded for him. They’re bent on keeping him as part of their starting unit, viewing his pinpoint shooting from the three-point line as a decided plus. And they’re right, what with their roster short on the skill set he boasts of and, more importantly, top dog Joel Embiid slated to benefit from his mere presence.
In any case, the early signs are promising at worst. Against the highly regarded Nuggets last Friday, Harris was instrumental in breaking open an otherwise tight contest. And he continued his assault on nylon and net yesterday, going three of five from beyond the arc and nine of 14 overall to improve his aggregate clip to five of eight and 15 of 26, respectively, since he joined the Sixers. A product of good vibes? Perhaps. An offshoot of ideal spacing? No doubt. For all his supposed reliance on pick-and-roll sets, he looked right at home in the face of new head coach Brett Brown’s motion-offense predilections.
What Harris doesn’t address, and actually highlights: the Sixers’ lack of bench depth. Which is why they’ll likely stay active and on the lookout for players of value on the waiver wire. In the postseason, substitutes of worth are crucial in giving vital cogs the requisite short spells. All the same, he’s a definite plus, and fortifies a First Five that is arguably the best in the East. And there’s one word that aptly describes them as a consequence: scary.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.