A Way Too In Depth Season Preview: Tobias Harris


About Last Season

Last season Tobias was one of the few bright spots on the Pistons with a line of 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. He scored those points at a great efficiency with a true shooting percentage of 56.8%. HE was regularly a member of the Pistons best lineups throughout the season, and with the lack of shooting and playmaking his isolations regularly bailed out the offense.

Where He Stands Now

Tobias is entering the 3rd year of a 4 year $64,000,000 deal that will pay him $16million this year and $14.8million next season. He is 25 and will be for the entire season, and figures to be the starting 4 this season.

Offense

Tobias remains an excellently efficient scorer with the ball in his hands but is limited otherwise. Per Synergy he grades out as good or excellent in pretty much every aspect of scoring other than 3 point shooting, whether it be in various forms of isolations or as a pick and roll ball handler.

In the end, the only question that surrounds Tobias on offense is whether not he can/will be given a chance to take a more significant role in the offense. The one knock on him has always been that despite his great skill set as a scorer, he has never been a guy who is a true #1 option, with his career high being 17.1 points per game. He admittedly is a bit of a tough piece to fit, because, despite his great ability to score for himself, he isn't a good enough passer to create for others, so when he makes his move to score and doesn't get a look he likes, it usually results in him just passing it out for a reset instead of perhaps finding an open teammate to keep the offense flowing. With that said, it is fair to assume that he is capable of scoring more than 16 per game, and I would like to see him closer to 20.

In the end, he figures to be the second or perhaps even 1B option in the offense behind the Jackson/Drummond pick and roll. He can work as a respectable, if not overly threatening, spot up guy when he doesn't have the ball and is a killer guy to drive into the paint against an already scrambling defense. He will get plenty of chances to just go iso on his own and get shots up for himself, especially since SVG will likely use him quite a bit as the anchor of bench unit offenses. He is a silky smooth finisher with a killer first step to get around bigger guys and is a post up bully against smaller guys. Once again his lack of playmaking can make it tough to get him overly involved in the offense, but it will be important for the Pistons to find ways for him to get plenty of shots. Last year he was tied for team lead in shots per game with 13, and not even 1 ahead of Marcus Morris (12.7) and KCP (12.2). I want Tobias (and Jackson) being in the upper teens and the other guys to stay lower. Get the ball in the hands of your good offensive players. 

Defense

Tobias has made excellent progress on the defensive end in his time with the Pistons. He has mostly gone from a huge minus to a general net negative, and maybe even a slight positive. It will be important for his game to continue to make small steps in the right direction on this end of the floor as well. He struggles quite a bit to contain ball handlers as he doesn't have the best lateral quickness and also has a bad tendency to stand too far upright, and also just isn't always the highest IQ guy (which also shows up in his lack of passing on offense) so he isn't going to be snuffing out lots of passes. But he still has some tools to work with, and it is a real credit to the player development of SVG and the current regime (one of the few in this category) that they have been able got get Tobias to maximize the tools he has. He does have long arms, is pretty strong, and has some legit hops. He provides occasional moments of great rim protection from a guy wing player, and his length is leveraged to try and help keep passing lanes tight. There were several games last year where Tobias made nice defensive plays down the stretch of games which was something that just wasn't the case for him earlier in his career.

In the end, Tobias isn't ever going to be a great defender, and probably not even a good one. But through hard work, and good coaching, he has been able to be disruptive in his own ways and as long as he can mostly avoid guarding particularly skilled scorers he can even come out as a net positive overall where he can roam a little bit more for steals and blocks.

The one area where I would like to see him improve is as a transition defender. He has the right combination of size and speed that I think he could be a good chase-down block guy, but he has never been. I want to see that become a thing for him this year.

Intangibles

Tobias is, by all accounts, a great dude who works his tail off. He never comes off as a particularly vocal leader, but a leader none-the-less. He is a worker who shows up and doesn't complain and is consistently trying to win. There should be no problems in this department for Tobias.

Best Case Scenario

More shots are shifted Tobias' way, and he even shows some improvements as a passer on his way to averaging over 20 per game to give the Pistons a pair of guys (Jackson being the other) who score 20+ and they form a great yin and yang 1-2 punch in the offense. Jackson being the higher volume ball handler who takes some of the tougher shots, while Tobias is the hyper-efficient second fiddle who also shreds backup units as the leader of the bench mobs. He also has a bump to his 3 point shooting to go from "respectable" to "threatening" from deep. His defense makes another small step, and he is a complete 2-way player and makes the all-star team.

Worst Case Scenario

The Pistons don't figure out how to get him more involved in the offense, and it is at least partially because it is becoming steadily clearer that Tobias' game just isn't the type that can be given a more significant role. He remains a mediocre defender and passer with low volume scoring, Jackson freezes him out of the offense too often, and SVG starts to think about starting Leuer again.

So in conclusion:

Wink Knowingly at your friends if

- Every time Tobias dusts an opposing 4.

- Tobias is averaging a block per game.

- The Pistons figure out how to effectively have Tobias and Jackson share the floor.

Run For The Hills If:

- Tobias keeps scoring like 16 per game.

- His long ball trends downwards towards 30%.

- He is coming off the bench again.

Opportunities For Me To Look Stupid

- 18 points per game.

- Tobias gets real all-star chatter in a thin Eastern Conference.

- Tobias gets a lot of his points by destroying poor backup 4s.

What do you think? Can Tobias expand his offensive role? Can he keep improving his defense?

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