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Tonight we head to SEC country to take a look at the interesting young forward from the University of Tennessee, Tobias Harris. In the first 8 parts of this series we’ve looked at a variety of players, and we still have a few intriguing players to profile remaining. So far we’ve examined Alec Burks, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, Marcus Morris, Chris Singleton, and Jimmer Fredette. With only a few days to go before draft night as I am writing this, things are beginning to take shape now, and the speculation and scrutiny is intensifying. With the rumors flying all over the place about our intentions, let’s take a look at the young combo forward Tobias Harris, a player we worked out fairly early in the draft process.
Harris measured in at the draft combine at 6’7 3/4, with a wing span of 6’11. His weight was interesting to note, as he has gotten in significantly better condition since opting to enter the draft, dropping from his Tennessee weight of 238 to now a much more lean 225. That was important for him to do, because I am sure one of the criticisms scouts had of him (and I would have too from watching the film on him) is that he was heavy and slow legged, and wasn’t in optimal physical condition for the rigors of the NBA.
This is somewhat mitigated for me by knowing just how young this kid is. Still only 18 years old, Harris won’t turn 19 until July 15. Compare that to many others in this draft that we have profiled or will be in the upcoming days, and you realize that Harris is far from a finished product….youth is on his side.
Despite his youth, at Tennessee Harris was productive and efficient, despite playing in what became a dumpster fire of a season in Knoxville for the since departed head coach Bruce Pearl. Harris netted over 15 ppg in less than 12 attempts per game, and he snagged just over 7 rebounds a contest. So unlike some of the younger prospects you typically see, you aren’t drafting Harris solely on potential, you actually saw him play against high level talent in college and be successful.
Harris is a nice player with lots of variety in his skill set offensively, so let’s look at that part of his game first.
Unlike many of the players in this draft who can only play with the ball in their hands, Harris seems to understand the game a little better than most, and can play all over the floor. As a cutter, Harris isn’t lightning fast or anything, but he does a very nice job of setting his man up as a screen is coming to him, and in coming tight off his screen to flash his colors toward the passer. He was a perfect fit for the “3 man motion/flex” style offense Coach Pearl employs, as he got to make that baseline cut across the lane to the low post alot, and catch the ball on the move with his man trailing.
In the somewhat unconventional and simplistic Tennessee offense, you didn’t see Harris coming off alot of typical NBA “pin down” screens, or in alot of ballscreen situations.* One of the things teams surely are doing in his workouts are putting him in those scenarios, and seeing what his hidden strengths and weaknesses in those might be.
Harris got a smorgasboard of chances to show his versatility at Tennessee, being moved all around the floor depending on the matchups and needs of the moment. He did a really good job I thought of feeding the post, a skill that very few I have profiled (possible exception of Alec Burks)* so far have been really good at, and was used as a post feeder alot in their scheme. He was able to take slower people off the dribble, and could shoot over the smaller quicker types if need be. Unlike many others, Harris wasn’t a guy who took alot of forced bad shots, if he didn’t gain an advantage he simply moved the ball and continued with the possession.
He isn’t a guy who is going to get all the way to the rim at the next level, but his game will be somewhat old school….as he will have the mid range pull up game I think better than most will, especially since he is already good at it at age 18.
He does lack range on his shot, being limited at this point to about 17 feet or so. He doesn’t seem to have any real hiccups in his shot that I see, so I would expect that to improve over time. One thing especially that I thought caused him to miss alot was the above mentioned lack of elite conditioning level that I thought he played with last year, but by all accounts he is working on that already as we speak. I also thought he got flat footed sometimes on a catch on the perimeter, instead of catching the ball bouncing on the balls of his feet. Though a majority of people still teach the “heel/toe” method of shooting, I thought he had heavy feet when he got tired, and didn’t get up on to his balls of his feet in a consistent way, screwing up the timing and rhythm of his perimeter jumper.
That can be fixed easily, and is not a concern of mine, especially for an 18 year old. His form was fine from the waist up I thought, and I am actually somewhat impressed with his overall shooting touch from all over the floor.
Harris should be better in the low post than he is, even though I see that as a potential advantage for him down the road. For now, he is a guy who doesn’t like contact, and tends to fade away or avoid people rather than just finishing “thru his chin” inside.* Since he lacks any great post move and footwork, or the athleticism to score over people simply by out leaping them, he will have alot of work today to be a real legitimate post threat in the NBA. Right now he needs a screen to get open down there, as he can’t carve out space for himself and keep it for very long. He seals kind of weak and doesn’t really demand the basketball the way you’d like. But on the other hand, if he does get the ball in an advantage situation he can score it, and he rarely forces a bad attempt…so it is a mixed bag.
I like him best probably as a guy who can defensive rebound, then lead his own fast break without needing to make an outlet. Being able to do that particular skill was very handy for the Volunteers, especially when Harris played the “4″ for them as the second biggest player on the floor.
Defensively, he is somewhat in between positions….he struggles to stay in front of more athletic 3 men, and isn’t nearly powerful enough to bang inside with bigger and stronger NBA men.
I think though that he will morph into an average NBA defender as he gets older and gets in much better physical condition. I say again, Harris played last year way too heavy in my view, and is only now getting in the type of tremendous athletic shape that is required of an NBA level player. He is still losing his baby fat, and probably gained some weight being away from home for the first time like most of us normal people did when they were college freshmen.
His defensive issues are all simple athleticism ones though. There is no lack of effort or attention to detail, Harris gives you an honest days work out there and isn’t lazy. In some ways he probably is too conservative for my taste, but knowing his limitations and playing accordingly is better than taking wild gambles that you can’t justify. He is as a wing defender the type of player I would label as* a “guider”….in other words, he can’t dictate to a player where he wants them to go with athleticism, but thru intelligence, scouting, and an overall team scheme he can play in such a way that he can guide his man into the help. He isn’t going to be able to get out and deny a wing like Paul George or Chris Singleton can, and he can’t get in a players grill and use his strength to muscle a player into bad spots like other good defenders do. Instead guys will catch the ball on him, and he will be there to try and stay in front in a conservative way and try and follow the overall instructions of the staff and game plan. He will need to do much better in defending people in space, or guys will isolate against him constantly.
He is going to have to contest shots better than he does now, especially in close out situations. He does fairly well when his man rises up to shoot over him, but his arms and hands often come up late, and he doesn’t have the quick lift to get in the air with a jump shooter, again like an elite athlete like a Paul George can do. But it is when he is in help and has to recover back to someone where he isn’t very good at all, seemingly just really struggling to get his take off going…when he hits the gas pedal, it takes a while for his engine to fire. Now again, how much of this is due to what I thought was his overweight body and poor conditioning? I don’t know….but those who are working him out privately* I am sure are checking that out very carefully.
As a rebounder, Harris is a blockout and hold guy, and a player who gets rebounds he is supposed to get but not many more. He isn’t going to sky off the ground and tear one down, but he will block out and get balls that come to him consistently. He doesn’t rebound outside his area, and doubt he is any better than average as a rebounder in the NBA. But while maybe not getting that many rebounds himself, he will be a guy who might keep his man off the glass….thereby enabling your TEAM to rebound better, even if he himself doesn’t get it….the new age of basketball sabermetrics guys are working on that stat somewhere even as we speak, and I suspect that NBA teams already have that data or something similar. Perhaps that can be a topic discussed in this thread or on this board as we go forward.
So, what do we have in Tobias Harris?
The first thing a team will have to decide on his what the hell position is he defensively? Then once they do that, they can look at their own personnel and schemes and make up their mind if he fits them or not.
Many people in today’s NBA will look at him and think he is going to project as a typical modern day NBA “face up 4″ man….you can’t call him a “stretch 4″ at this point because he can’t shoot from distance, but he can move around for you, bouncing from the post to the perimeter some, so I could see that being a role for him.
However, I view him as a full time “3″, and believe that is where he’d be best served. I think he needs extensive athletic training and work on his body, but to do that I want him committed to one position only, and i like him better as a perimter guy going forward than trying to become some physical inside guy, which is not his mentality at all I don’t think. Others will disagree, in fact I think I am likely in the minority here with my opinion of his future.
If he is a “3″, then to really use him best in the future you’ll need to be a team defensively that sags alot, floods one side of the floor, and plays more of a “pack line” style of halfcourt man. If you are a team that pressures, tries to deny wings, and doesn’t help as much, then that won’t really enable him to be as successful as he could be. Ideally you’d have a shot blocker behind him to help erase the times he flat gets beat off the dribble, and someone he can guide his man into in an overall team defensive 5 on 5 type setting. I think a halfcourt team that limits possessions some probably makes more sense for him than some high flying acrobatic type of team.
Offensively in time he can post up smaller weaker 3 men, help you handle the ball, and feed the post for you. He has no one clear offensive weapon, instead he is a guy who can get you 10-12 points a game in a variety of ways….a fast break jumper here, a couple of free throws there, a post up move here, a drive and pull up here, maybe an offensive rebound, and before you know it he can score in double digits and never have a play ran for him! But on some nights he will be a 4, 6, 8 pt game guy off your bench instead….without a consistent great move or real offensive strength, those guys often can get shut down when a team really wants to do so.
So, what I think he is probably is a back up 3, longer term type of project guy who needs a couple of years to hit his peak and continue to develop. Eventually he is still a borderline starter/ back up 3, part of your rotation, and* can play some back up 4 if you really need him to in a short stretch. I think he can be an NBA starter down the road in the exact right circumstance, but only would be useful on a really really good team with 4 other really good players who all can score and fill a specific role…..Harris is more like a “glue” guy, no dynamic strengths but good enough to be able to help a team win by filling in the gaps where needed. Harris appears to be very coachable, seems to be articulate and intelligent and by all accounts is a high character guy who “gets it”….and those aren’t traits you should take for granted.
So what does Indiana do at #15 with Harris on the board?
I’ve spoken alot in the past about my belief that Bird doesn’t like “tweeners”. He wants guys who are either clearly point guards, wings, power forwards, or centers….I think he is more of a traditional team builder in that sense than are some people. “Positional purity” is the term I’ve coined for that. Harris is more like an “Allen wrench”, a handy tool but something you can probably do without most of the time.
I would bet that Bird doesn’t view Harris style and* versatility with the same kind of enthusiasm that some other evaluators would, so I firmly expect Indiana to pass on Tobias Harris next Thursday night.
I agree with that thinking only in the sense that I like other players in the draft that will likely be there much better than Tobias Harris, so I’d pass too. I will say however that I enjoyed watching him play, like his overall somewhat old school type game, and really like his personality and demeanor on the floor. I bet Harris interviewed well, and he is the kind of kid that at only 18 has a chance to be pretty good someday, he is not a finished product by far.
Still, I’d pass….I want a player more athletic and who is ready to play at least on one end or the other at a higher level right away, I don’t want to wait on Harris for a year or 2 with our current situation and roster.
So where does Harris end up? I don’t know for sure, but probably past us into the later half of round 1. He’d be an ideal fit really for Oklahoma City at #24, surrounded by all that young talent and alpha dog types, his demeanor and intangibles would fit well there.* It seems like I say Houston for everyone I mention, but I can see him going there as well if they keep their pick at #23.* Many of those late 1st round picks are up for bidding, I can see another team moving back into the 1st round and taking him as well if those 2 teams pass. For now, I’ll give him to Oklahoma City though at #24.
Current NBA comparable: poor man’s version of Jeff Green
Past NBA comparable: Help me out PD, anyone with a good name in mind?
Re: Tbird 2011 NBA draft analysis #9: Tobias Harris
I like Harris. I think he can be one of the better players from this draft although that isn't saying a lot but still. While I agree with Tbird that the Pacers are likely to pass on Harris mostly due to Bird seeming to like pure position players, I do think that if Bird were to make an exception to drafting pure position players it could be with Harris. I think at the very least Bird appreciates his demeanor and his talent. Since this is a weak draft Bird just might take a chance on Harris if his top choices (Brooks? Jimmer?) are off the board by the time the Pacers pick.