Sun. Dec 15th, 2019

Tobias Harris’ performance in the Philadelphia 76ers’ win over Cleveland was, in simple terms, abnormal.

The Philadelphia 76ers managed to grind out an ugly win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. Several factors contributed to the Sixers’ struggles — turnovers, no Al Horford, lackadaisical defense — but one player stood out in a particularly bad light: Tobias Harris.

In 32 minutes, Harris scored eight points on 4-for-17 shooting. He made zero trips to the free throw line. The most glaring number was his three-point success rate — 0-for-11, with several bad misses intermixed.

Harris’ first deep attempt missed the rim, instead clanking off the backboard to the right. It was the perfect visual representation of his night, which didn’t get much better. He hit a couple clutch shots late, and deserves credit for the entry pass leading to Joel Embiid‘s game-winner, but it was a rough night all-around for the $180 million man.

No, the purpose of this article is not to defend Harris, nor is it to argue that he in fact played well. Harris was hot garbage, and according to Brett Brown after the game, it was indicative of how he felt. Stomach bugs are the worst, and Philadelphia seems to harbor an ungodly amount of intestinal maladies.

If we’re to believe Brown, Harris was gutting this one out — an admirable effort in a slow, sloppy, physical contest. He played like crap, but also felt like crap, so one might call it a wash. An unfortunate aberration. I’m skeptical of Harris ever shooting 0-for-11 from deep again.

The one positive lies in that very same number. Eleven. Harris took ELEVEN three-point attempts. After a multiple-game stretch of limited attempts and painful hesitancy from deep, Harris willingly let it fly when the Cavaliers afforded him open space.

Before the game, Brown called Harris a ‘6-foot-9 J.J. Redick‘. Maybe not the best timing on that comment, but there’s merit behind it. Harris is a historically good shooter, and the Sixers need him to operate as a high-volume three-point threat. The offense won’t reach its ceiling without it.

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Harris needs to uncork every open look beyond the arc. Regression to the mean is still possible, if not the outright expectation. He was a 43.4 percent three-point shooter with L.A. last season, and shot 41.1 percent the season before. I doubt Harris has forgotten how to shoot (knocks on all wooden objects within a 50-yard radius).

Similar to last season, it’s probably a rhythmic thing. Harris’ role has undergone a massive transformation in Philadelphia, both from the Clippers to the Sixers, and from last season to this season. He’s still learning how to complement and occupy a space next to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, to boot.

It’s well within reason to have concerns over Harris and his current 21.7 percent mark from three-point range, but an 0-for-11 outlier should be treated as such. It’s an outlier, and his percentage should — heck, will — move up in a substantial fashion.

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Harris attempting 11 threes is a good step in the right direction, if nothing else.