By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
While some players made the adjustment to playing in the new-look Philadelphia 76ers' offense look simple and easy, the adjustment was not a smooth transition for everyone on the roster.
Tobias Harris struggled to adjust to his rapidly changing role on the Sixers after the acquisition of James Harden. In his first seven games after Harden's debut, Harris averaged 12.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He went from being the No. 2 option behind Joel Embiid and having to create with the ball in his hands to filling more of a catch-and-shoot role as the team's third – or perhaps fourth if Maxey continues to ascend – scoring option on any given night.
However, Harris began to get more comfortable in his new role beginning with a huge performance in the win over the Orlando Magic back on March 13. He poured in 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including knocking down the game-winning three in overtime.
"Everybody has made like a huge deal of three games," Harris said after the win over the Magic. "I’m just sitting back like evaluating, watching film, going to the gym, putting up extra shots, and staying in rhythm because I know I’m an adapter, and I’ve always been an adapter in any situation. I know that for me, it’s just about figuring out ways to be very efficient in that role. Whether it’s 18 shots or it’s eight shots, just be efficient, and bring energy on both sides of the game."
Harris' role might be changing on a game-to-game basis, but he is gradually making the adjustment to fit into his new role on the Sixers. Over his last seven games, beginning with the game against the Magic, he is averaging 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from three-point range on 4.3 attempts per game.
His shot attempts have decreased since Harden's arrival, but he can still be an effective player offensively as long as he stays confident and plays with efficiency. There will be games where Harris steps up and plays a bigger role in the offense, like his 26-point performance against the Magic. However, there will also be games where he takes a back seat and produces in other aspects outside of scoring the basketball.
Harris has taken pride in handling increased responsibilities defensively. He has done a solid job covering players like DeMar DeRozan and Caris Levert over the past few weeks. He has enough lateral quickness to be able to stay with some quicker forwards while also having the size to be able to occasionally defend the post position.
He has also taken on an increased role as a passer. Over the last two games, he is averaging 5.5 assists and just 1.0 turnovers per game. He will not be one of the team's primary creators, but it is good for him to have the ability to help the Sixers in that area when needed.
Things are beginning to click for Harris. He had one of his better games since the Harden acquisition on Wednesday night in the win over the Los Angeles Lakers. He filled up the stat sheet, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. He did a good job picking his spots, attacking when he had a mismatch and spreading the ball around the floor.
His three-point shot was one of the only things not falling for him against the Lakers. However, he stayed confident and was able to hit a big three, his second of the night on five attempts, to give the Sixers a 119-110 lead with 1:43 remaining in the game.
Harris has made a ton of sacrifices to help make all the pieces fit, and all the while he has continued to work and fill a leadership role in the locker room. There is still more work to do to perfect his role on the roster before the playoffs arrive, but his hard work and sacrifices are beginning to pay off.