2016/2017 Season Recap/Notes: Tobias Harris.
This is the 4th season recap. Previously was Reggie Jackson, KCP, and Marcus Morris.
Tobias Harris can get buckets. With Reggie Jackson hurt Tobias Harris was the Pistons most effective offensive player this year, scoring 16.1 points per game on a TS% of 56.8%, which is very impressive by any measure, but especially when you consider the difficult diet of shots Tobias takes. The Pistons offense was very regularly aimless in the half court this year without the tent pole of the Jackson/Drummond pick and roll, and Tobias Harris was often there to bail them out.
Tobias’ defensive effort was also a very nice spot for the Pistons this year. It is hard to quantify his defensive improvement in any way other than the proverbial “eye test” since none of his defensive statistics made any sort of meaningful change (in either direction), the only improvement worth noting was probably a career high in defensive win shares, but that was mostly achieved with the help of playing in all 82 games this year, a career first. (with his previous high being 76 last year) Tobias still has some very real flaws on defense, he still too often finds himself flat footed and getting blown by ball handlers, and is too willing to give up on plays, but there were far fewer times where he made outright and obvious gaffs on the defensive end this year. While on the other side, there were quite a few instances of him making a key defensive play down the stretch of close games, often in the form of making an impressive block. There is still some question as to how good he actually is on either end of the floor, but for the first time in his career, he was routinely making “winning” plays on both ends, and that is a big step in the right direction. Many people have complained about SVG’s player development (and not without reason), but Tobias Harris’ defensive play this year is a nice positive to point to in that department. Coaches have been trying to get him to play a lick of defense his whole career, and this past year is the first time he actually did with consistency.
Lastly, it cannot be ignored that Tobias was, simply put, he was regularly a member of some of the Pistons more successful lineups this year, and his play was fun to watch which was nice on a team that was often times lacking in the “fun” department.
It has to start with his shooting from deep. He finished the year at 34.7% on 3.8 attempts (a career high) per game from deep. That is not a terrible mark obviously, it is just a bit below league average, and he has a fluid and quick release which allows him to fire away with confidence when he has a good look. The trouble is that his 3 point shooting is still just not much a threat beyond “yeah he can shoot some 3s.” And to be clear, this is generally a problem with the entire team as it is currently constructed, not just a Tobias problem, if there were a couple other ace shooters on the roster then his shooting wouldn’t be as big a deal. Essentially, he falls into a similar boat as KCP does, improved shooting was one of the main theoretical improvements that could happen to his game, and it just didn’t really happen. He did fine from deep, but there is little reason to look at this year and conclude that he really has improved much. He is a career 33.2% shooter from deep, which means he was barely a full point up on his career mark and on a similar number of attempts, essentially meaning that it is very likely an improvement that is fully within the range of randomness.
Although I had a lot of very nice things to say about Tobias’ defensive play this year, it is still worth noting that he has work to do on that end. Him maybe being a slight plus on defense is a great improvement for him, but in the grand scheme of things he remains a guy who overall is just good enough to not hurt your defense much, and if he is to be a long term piece for a winning Pistons team, they will likely need him to make more improvements.
Lastly, is a somewhat divisive topic around Tobias, is his volume of scoring on the offensive end. Despite his impressive efficiency numbers he still scored just 16.1 points per game. This has been a hot topic around Tobias for his entire career, he is clearly a very gifted scorer, and yet he has never been a high volume scorer. If there was ever a season for him to really take reigns and become the proverbial guy, this was it. Some of the blame can fall with SVG, but how many coaches and teams does he have to go through before he is just simply missing the skill or mentality to be a real number one option? He might be super efficient because he doesn’t take lots of shots, I don’t know for sure. The good news is that in theory he isn’t the Pistons number 1 option and Reggie will come back in full force next year so Tobias can be a really good secondary option. (which is where I think he fits best)
Tobias Harris is still getting better. There were more than a few people who were of the opinion that he was what he was at this point, which is one reason he didn’t get a huge contract, and yet he just finished up his best defensive season while also posting a career best in true shooting percentage. SVG regularly raves about Tobias’ work ethic, and he clearly has great talent to go with it. If you look at his career trajectory at this point, there is a chance that Tobias is a “slow and steady” type. He won’t make some huge leap one year, but you will look up and he will be 27, in his prime, and an all star caliber player. The best current example of this is probably DeAndre Jordan or Paul Millsap. It wasn’t like they just became awesome one year, they just kept chipping away.
Can he keep improving on his shooting or his defense in a major way? As he currently is, he is not the cleanest fit with any roster. For him to really reach his peak for this Pistons team (and also to ensure that he is the right long term piece) he needs to become better in roles that are “complimentary” if that makes sense. If he could become a good shooter (like 38% from 3 maybe?) or become a really good defender, then he would be pretty close to the perfect guy for the team.
What do you think? Do you think it is him or the coaching? Can he continue to improve?