Los Angeles Clippers: What to Expect from Tobias Harris in a Contract Year

Los Angeles Clippers, NBA, Tobias Harris
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

On July 22nd, TNT’s David Aldridge reported that Tobias Harris turned down an $80 million extension from the L.A. Clippers. Here’s what to expect from Harris this season.

Basically, he’s going to try to ball out. In recent times, NBA players facing a contract season either get better or nosedive. I fully expect Tobias Harris to be the former. Harris has had a rollercoaster of a career so far. The small forward is going on his eighth year in the league but is still only 26. He’s now on his fourth team in those eight years and has been apart of three separate trade deadline moves. Moving from Milwaukee to Orlando, Orlando to Detroit and then was apart of the blockbuster Blake Griffin trade this past February that shipped him over to the city of angels.

Harris has long been overlooked in the NBA. I think that this season he will have the opportunity to show that he is capable of go-to scoring and being a team’s number one option on the offensive end.

Much like Harris’ career up to this point, the Clippers had quite the odd season last year. They started the most lineups out of any team in the league, had every day one starter go down with an injury (with some being worse than others), had a 31-year-old bench player in Lou Williams for a leading scorer and dealt their franchise player in the middle of the season. So much movement and yet, still a winning record. Chalk it up to Doc’s coaching or a rag-tag team banding together, either way, this team’s identity is still being molded despite some minor success.

With the return of Patrick Beverley this season, new starters in Avery Bradley and Marcin Gortat, the drafting of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the health of Danilo Galinari all playing factors into the Clippers success this season, it has the makings of another crazy 82 games. The one hopeful constant in this equation? Tobias Harris getting buckets.

Harris had himself quite the season in 2017-18. In his 32 games with the Clippers he averaged career highs in points, assists, steals and 3-point percentage. In the prior 48 games with the Detroit Pistons, he averaged 18.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game, with the points average being his highest career clip until he landed in L.A.

Harris has all the makings of a go-to scoring wing in today’s NBA. He’s a sturdy 6’9” with a 6’11” wingspan. Since the 2016 season, his 3-point percentage has gone up every season. He has a quick release and is never afraid to shoot. His shot is both effective off the dribble and off the catch. He is both effective from distance (41% from 3 last season) and can score from the mid-range or get to the rack. He uses his size to his advantage to bully smaller defenders and his speed to go around bigger guys. His first step is sneaky quick and utilizes it to get open pull-up jumpers and floaters. Take a look at the video below of an April matchup with the San Antonio Spurs this past season to see all of these traits in actions.

The one knock against Harris has constantly been about defense. He isn’t known to be the quickest guy or the best defender but has improved on the defensive end since his Orlando days. For his career, he averages nearly a steal a game and half a block as well, which aren’t bad numbers for a wing. He started to show more effort on this end, in my opinion, these past two seasons and can guard 3’s and 4’s effectively. I expect this effort to continue this season given the circumstances.

Some people in the Twittersphere reacted to the decline of the extension from Harris with typical Clipper bashing without knowing the facts. Why would anyone in their right mind agree to an $80 million deal when $188 million or $145.5 million is on the table? Obviously, there is a risk involved when you turn down guaranteed money. There are horror stories in the past and if you get injured or under-perform, that money could get slashed. Harris knows this and is willing to take this risk.

Let’s be honest here, no one expects the Clippers to burn up the Western Conference this season. While some are lower on them than I am, they will probably cap out at a 45-win season at best. What does this mean? It mean’s that Harris will have every opportunity to be the main scorer for the Clippers this year. It will be the first time in his career that he will be the focal point of the offense and I expect him to take full advantage of this.

The Clippers projected starting lineup should look like this:

PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: Danilo Gallinari
C: Marcin Gortat

Besides Gallinari, who is incredibly inconsistent due to constant injury troubles, there is not a lot of scoring in that group. Harris will be able to absolutely chuck the ball and will probably play the most minutes this season he ever has. His previous high in minutes, 36.1, was over 27 games played in his first season with the Orlando Magic. I expect him to hit around that number this season as the Clippers will probably need it.

Ideally, what Harris will be able to do this season is finally eclipse that 20-point per game mark and be the true number one option for the Clippers on the offensive end. If he can continue his hot shooting, continue to improve on the defensive end and add a few new wrinkles to his game (Maybe a Lebron/Kobe/MJ turnaround off the post…?), Harris will have no problem securing the bag next offseason.

Whether the Clippers would want to pay Harris nearly $200 million next season is an entirely different conversation but for now, he’s the best thing the Clippers have.