– Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
The Detroit Pistons acquisition of Tobias Harris in the days preceding the NBA’s February trade deadline bolstered the team’s youthful core. The team’s current five starters; Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, and Andre Drummond, all range in age from 22 to 26, presenting an opportunity for continuity and collective growth amongst the team’s core group for the first time since the Pistons successful mid-2000s run of reaching six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. However, continuity can be short-lived if the pieces do not fit. Harris’ fit with the Pistons is clear; it begins with his athleticism and versatility, and extends to his offensive game as a “stretch”-type forward. The 6’9’’ 235 lb. Harris is capable of extending defenses to the three-point line, and will foster the continued growth of Drummond: the franchise cornerstone. Drummond has thrived in his first All-Star season, a breakout season that could be directly correlated to the multiple perimeter-shooting threats surrounding him on this revamped Pistons roster.
Though Harris is not known as a three-point shooting specialist, he has over his career shot a credible 32% from the arc, a number that commands attention from any opposing defense. In six games since being traded to Detroit, Harris’ shooting percentage has trended up considerably; hitting on 42% of his long-distance attempts. Harris has raised his percentage while shooting 3.5 attempts per game from deep, a slight increase compared to 2.9 attempts throughout his time with the Magic. Coupled with his career 66% shooting on attempts within 3 feet of the basket, Harris becomes another versatile offensive option to flank the lethal Jackson/Drummond pick-n-roll. When the ball is swung to Harris on the wing, he can use his quickness and explosive first-step to attack slower power forwards. When small forwards lacking physicality defend him, Harris can bully them inside with his athleticism and strength.
Harris’ demonstrated production throughout his NBA career reflects an approach perfectly suited to a Stan Van Gundy team. Harris Takes 32% of his shots from 0-3 feet from the basket, and 22% of his shots are attempted from 3-point range. This approach is in line with a changing landscape in today’s NBA in which the 3-point shot and interior scoring are the focus of many offenses, with midrange shooting emphasized as the less-efficient option. Van Gundy has been vocal in his belief of this particular offensive philosophy, one documented instance in particular coming at a basketball clinic in Orlando while SVG was head coach of the Magic. The Orlando Sentinel’s Zach McCann cited Van Gundy emphasizing to camp attendees that “free-throws, layups and three-pointers are the three types of shots he wants his team looking for, because those are the most efficient ways to put points on the board.” Harris is a career 78% free-throw shooter, and gets to line for an average of 3 attempts per game.
Defensively, Harris brings yet another dimension of positional flexibility. Already accustomed to dividing his minutes between multiple positions, Harris has played an estimated 49% of his minutes throughout his career at small forward and 49% of his minutes at power forward. Important to consider is the defensive versatility Harris’ athleticism will give the Pistons. The Pistons defense already ranks 10th in the NBA in both opponents points per game (100.5) and defensive rating (104.2). Adding Harris’ athleticism and rebounding (Harris grabbed 7 rebounds per game as a member of the Magic) will help the Pistons further improve upon their current rankings as they develop defensive chemistry in line with Van Gundy’s principles. Although an average individual defender—Harris ranks 12th on the Pistons roster in defensive win shares (0.2)—his lateral quickness and leaping ability will help him to contest and disrupt offensive players within the team’s defensive philosophy.
Aside from his on-court contributions, Harris’ fit with the Detroit Pistons undeniably extends off the court, where Harris is very active in the community. Harris was the winner of the 2013-14 Rich & Helen Devos Community Enrichment Award , given by the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation honoring a player’s efforts to enhance the lives of others. Harris shared the same award in 2014-15 with then teammate Victor Oladipo. Also in 2015, Harris was recognized by the NBA and awarded it’s Community Assist Award for the month of March. In continuing those community outreach efforts, Harris will be an outstanding ambassador to represent the franchise, his on-court ‘fit’ with his new team as praise-worthy as how he fits with this franchise, and the city of Detroit, off the court.