Shortly after yesterday’s surprise trade that sent Tobias Harris to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reached out to Orlando Magic beat writer Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel to break down the ins and outs of the deal.
Where does Tobias Harris fit in the Pistons’ rotation? Is he a power forward or a small forward? Can he play defense? Why has his 3-point shot suffered this season? Should we be concerned about his cutback in scoring? What kind of person is he?
Robbins answered those questions and more during his guest appearance on Beard’s podcast. Check out a few of the key excerpts below then give Beard’s full interview a listen HERE.
Robbins on Harris’ scouting report:
A good scorer, good rebounder, certainly a player who can play both forward positions. In that sense he’s kind of a jack of all trades, master of none in the sense that he is a tweener. Defense is something where he needs to improve. He has made strides. Earlier in his career he stopped the ball a lot on offense. That’s not as much as a concern now. As a matter of fact, he probably sacrificed more in the Magic’s current system than anyone else.
On why Orlando decided to part ways with Harris less than a year after signing him to a four-year, $64 million contract:
One of the issues in Orlando is their starting backcourt as it currently is, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, isn’t reliable from 3-point range though Victor has been much better lately and can be much better. So if you have shooting problems in the backcourt, you better have lights out shooters from 3-point range at the two forward spots. Yet at the same time, the shooting deficiencies then back up on the forwards.
So Tobias’ shooting has diminished this past year, going from 36 and a half percent from three last year to about 31 and a half percent this year. And it just doesn’t quite work. And defensively, he’s not particularly good with weakside help defense. The pieces just didn’t really quite fit.
Regarding Harris’ scoring reduction this season (17.1 to 13.7), Robbins cited a completely overhauled offensive system under new Magic head coach Scott Skiles, where constant ball movement and side-to-side swings had led to less offensive opportunities for Harris in particular, though his drop in 3-point percentage (from 36.4 in 2015 to 31.1 this season) remains a concern:
To his credit, Harris bought into (Skiles’ new system) 100 percent and his numbers diminished as a result. His field goal percentage is exactly in line where it was the year before that and I think even the year prior to that. Where he has gone down has been from three and that’s been a source of frustration for him because he feels he is a better long range shooter than that. Everyone would be looking at his season much differently if he’d just been several percentage points higher from three.
Concerning his fit in Detroit, playing alongside a strong pick-and-roll duo like Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson (as opposed to the pick-and-pop of Magic center Nikola Vucevic):
Reggie Jackson is more dynamic, really, than Elfrid Payton. So I’m eager to see how that shakes out up in Detroit for Harris. I think he can be more productive as a scorer and if he’s as selfless as he was this past year in Orlando, which I think he will be, I think it’ll be very interesting to see how he plays in Detroit.
Just what position is Harris anyway?
He can play both (small forward and power forward). When he’s on the wing, he’s certainly a competitive player. There’s questions whether he’s fast enough to cover the fastest wing…
If the league continues to go toward small ball he’s a good fit at the four. But that’s something to certainly monitor. He’s not a stretch four but if he can start to shoot again, well, certainly that’d be a feather in his cap for sure and would help the Pistons immeasurably.
As for the cherry on top, Harris’ character has earned glowing reviews from his Orlando contemporaries. Even after receiving news of the trade yesterday afternoon, Harris followed through on a speaking engagement with local Orlando students later that evening.
Robbins believes Detroit has picked up a gem on that front:
Off the court, in terms of his personality, he’s an extremely hard worker, tremendous work ethic, always the first player out for pre-game warmups. Great contributor off the court. Community service, won the Magic community service award two years in a row. That is not an act. That is really what he believes. He believes that’s his obligation and he’s happy to do it. So he’s going to be, off the court, a tremendous asset for the area and Detroit.
Once more for the road, listen to Rod Beard’s full breakdown HERE.