Philadelphia 76ers: Tobias Harris is playing himself off the trade block

It’s no secret that Tobias Harris‘ name has been mentioned by the Philadelphia 76ers in more than a few trade conversations in 2022.

Whether asked to be included in a proposed deal alongside Ben Simmons in a deal with the Atlanta Hawks and the Sacramento Kings, shopped around to a team like the OKC Thunder in a glorified salary dump, or suggested as an offseason trade target to free up max contract money according to Zach Lowe, the chances of Harris remaining a member of the Sixers into the third year of his five-year, $180 million contract felt increasingly unlikely with each passing month since the acquisition of James Harden.

Unfortunate? For Harris, you bet; after bouncing around the league over the first basically decade of his career, the pride of Tennessee has finally found a home in Philadelphia and has finally been afforded an opportunity to play for a consistent contender.

But hey, it’s not all bad; apparently, Tobias Harris saw these rumors and took them personally, as he’s been playing some of the best basketball of his career in the Philadelphia 76ers’ first-round series against the Toronto Raptors and is making the plays needed to work his name off the trade block indefinitely.

The Philadelphia 76ers can keep building around Playoff Tobias Harris.

The Philadelphia 76ers don’t win Game 3 without Tobias Harris. Like literally; Harris set the screen on the final play of overtime that freed up a Joel Embiid 3 with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.

Playing a man down due to Matisse Thybulle’s vaccination status, Harris took the court at the Air Canada Center Scotiabank Arena with a bigger set of responsibilities than in the series’ previous two games, and he backed it up with an all-around great performance at both ends of the court.

While some will quibble with his points total, as Harris only put up 11 in 46 minutes of action after averaging 23.5 over the first two games, he padded out his stat line with 12 rebounds, two assists, a steal, a block, and some of the best defense he’s played all season long. Whether tasked with slowing down Pascal Siakam or switched onto OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, or even Gary Trent Jr., Harris put in maximum effort every second he was on the court and did the little things needed to keep his team alive in a game that didn’t see them lead for a second in regulation.

In a game that came down to a few very consequential seconds, Harris kept the ball out of Toronto’s hands at the end of regulation with a vital offensive rebound, recorded two more rebounds in overtime, and blocked a shot from Trent Jr. that would have given the Raptors a lead with just two minutes of free basketball left to play – in addition to the aforementioned screen that freed up Embiid for a shot so good it knocked one well-memed Raptors fan down to his hands and knees.

Not too shabby for a player who didn’t score a point after the 8:50 mark in the fourth quarter.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Harris has the highest Defensive Raptor rating of any player on the Sixers so far in the playoffs – 15th overall – and has been the team’s second-most impactful player behind only Tyrese Maxey. Now I know Nate Silver’s crew has gotten a bad rep for their stats helping to prop up Nikola Jokic‘s MVP campaign, but those numbers certainly line up with the eye test, and the NBA’s advanced analytics department’s defensive win shares statistic, which has Harris ranked 10th overall.

So what can Tobias Harris do to ensure he’s still a member of the Philadelphia 76ers this fall? Easy: Play exactly like he’s playing now. Make quick decisions with the ball, attempt 3s when they come his way, and do all of the little things that make a player a favorite of their coaching staff and teammates. With Joel Embiid in place as the team’s focal point, James Harden accepting the role of an offensive floor general, and Tyrese Maxey fully emerging as an unstoppable scoring force, the Sixers’ fourth scorer has to be a glue guy capable of filling in the roster’s gaps, playing his role, and putting his team in the best position to succeed. Fortunately, Harris has a reputation for being a great team guy, so that should work out nicely.