Philadelphia 76ers: Tobias Harris cracks ESPN’s top-50 players in the NBA

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

How many players can boast having their breakout season 10 years into an NBA career?

How many more did so on their fifth team in that tenure, after being traded once every other year or so for everyone from J.J. Redick, to Blake Griffin, and even Landry Shamet?

If you guessed the player in question is Tobias Harris – as if it wasn’t obvious enough from the graphic or the headline – then you, my friend, would be correct and are clearly a very well-informed fan of the Philadelphia 76ers.

While some will quibble with the assertion that Harris’ 10th NBA season was, in fact, a breakout campaign, as his stats were near-universally better across the board in his first tenure paired up with Doc Rivers as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, never before was the pride of Tennessee in serious contention for a spot in the All-Star game or the second option on a first-seed championship contender.

And the best part? At only 29-years-old, Harris is firmly in his NBA prime.

So, with the season inching closer and closer, it would make sense that Harris would appear on some player to watch list, right? I mean, for all we know, he could enter Opening Night of the 2021 NBA season as the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-best player if Ben Simmons stands by this threat to sacrifice game checks in the pursuit of being traded.

Well, according to ESPN, Tobias Harris is the 46th best player in the NBA, and between you and me, that seems just right.

Could the Philadelphia 76ers have two All-Stars in 2021-22 after all?

Jaylen Brown, Zach LaVine, James Harden, Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis, Nikola Vucevic, Ben Simmons; what do these seven players have in common?

Well, they are all really good at basketball, all between the age of 24 and 32, and, most importantly of all, they all made the 2021 NBA All-Star game as reserves out of the Eastern Conference.

Did Harris receive votes in the Eastern frontcourt too? Sure, he actually finished out the voting period with the 13th most fan votes – one spot higher than once and eventual teammate, Andre Drummond – and the 10th most player votes, but obviously, neither of those marks were good enough to get him into the game, especially since he didn’t receive a single vote from the media.

With that being said, Harris finally getting the nod in 2022 wouldn’t be all that surprising; about as surprising as Sabonis, Randle, and Vucevic making the game in 2021, at least.

Assuming Simmons is out, Harden is a starter, and no other particularly noteworthy frontcourt players make their way over to the Eastern Conference, Harris’ stock in 2021 is headed in a very different way than a number of his peers.

While Sabonis should remain a top-option for the Indiana Pacers even with Rick Carlisle taking over for Nate Bjorkgren, his style of play doesn’t quite line up with the Dirk Nowitzki/Kristaps Porzingis-style big power forward the 2011 NBA Champion had during his tenure in Dallas. This, when coupled with a steady string of rumors that one of the Pacers’ two bigs could eventually be on the move, could leave Sabonis in a statistically down year similar to his 2019-20 season, which was still very good but not quite All-Star caliber.

Vucevic, similarly, will see his role change considerably in 2021-22 versus 2020-21, as he’ll be going from the top offensive option for the Orlando Magic to the… third(?) offensive option for the Chicago Bulls, who added DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball to their Big 4 alongside LaVine this fall. Granted, Vucevic did have a trial run with the Bulls after being acquired from the Magic back in March, but that was before DeRozan and Ball made their way to the Windy City, where they will surely take up more touches than players like Coby White or Lauri Markkanen.

If his points per game dip below 20, Harris’ All-Star game chances skyrocket.

And as for Julius Randle, who is apparently nicknamed Beyblade according to Basketball-Reference? Well, if Randle puts up 24.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game again in 2021-22 as the Knicks’ top offensive option, it’ll certainly be hard for Harris to overshadow his performance. Then again, with Sabonis, Vucevic, and Simmons all potentially out of the running for a spot in the Eastern Conference frontcourt All-Star race, that’ll certainly do.

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In the grand scheme of things, does it matter if Tobias Harris makes an All-Star game? No. While I’m sure he’d love to add that feather to his proverbial cap, he has a max contract, Goldfish commercials, and a role in Adam Sandler’s new movie, Hustle; in the grand scheme of things, even a spot on ESPN’s Top-50 players in the NBA isn’t going to make or break his legacy. Still, if Ben Simmons is gone and no certified All-Star is brought in to fill his shoes, Harris landing on the All-Star team would be one heck of a morale booster for the Philadelphia 76ers.