Monday, May 19, 2014

Examining Tobias Harris' 2013-2014 Magic Season

Over the course of the Magic's offseason, leading up to the NBA Draft, I'll be analyzing all of the Orlando players that are still on the roster and how they did in their 2013-2014 campaign. I'll be going in ascending order based on games played. I won't be assigning grades or scores.

Previously in the series:

Nikola Vucevic
Doron Lamb
Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Tobias Harris

We go from one young potential NBA stud who had injury problems and is up for a contract extension - Nikola Vucevic - to another. Tobias Harris played 61 games, starting in only 36 contests as Coach Jacque Vaughn did a lot of experimenting with 'T12'. This third season in the league was still the most court action Tobias has seen to date. Jacque had Tobias at Power Forward and Small Forward as well as on-the-ball and off-the-ball. 

The Tennessee Volunteer missed out on Summer League following a knee collision prior to the vent, the majority of preseason, and 21 of the first 22 regular season games with a bad left ankle sprain. The 21-year-old played every single contest following December 11th. Harris averaged a career-high 14.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 0.7 spg, 50.8 2-point % at around 30 minutes per game. The problem for Harris was his 25.4 3PT% that dropped Tobias' total shooting percentage to 46.4 FG%.

All of that time missed took a toll on Tobias' rhythm, and his numbers. Tobias logged six double-double games this season after posting 9 in his twenty-seven games with the Magic last season. Harris tallied nine games of 20+ points in '12-'13 and twelve in this campaign. It needs to be known that T12's season really didn't get underway until January as he was working back into game shape. In that regard, he performed admirably as he also displayed improved defensive abilities against PFs and SFs.

Let's be realistic though, Tobias' best asset is his offense. There was the 28-point, 20-rebound game in late January against the Lakers, the game-winning dunk at the buzzer to knock off OKC in early February, and his career-high of 31 points came against the Sixers in early March:

I already pointed out back in March how Harris was playing at an elite level following the All-Star Break. His averages were much better in the last 28 games (9 of which he came off the bench: 15.8 ppg, 50.8 FG%, and 82.1 FT%. T12 was too good for tanking. That's why Coach Vaughn tried to pull the reins back on Tobias as discreetly as possible before he started winning more games for the team and hurting Orlando's lottery chances.
Coach Vaughn on March 2nd about Tobias' clutch shot ability: "A few times he bailed us out at the end of a shot clock violation. So the ability to make shots, that's crucial in this league and he has that ability."
There are more highlight packages from a variety of games this season. They all still support my thought that Tobias Harris can be a go-to scorer in a similar mold to Carmelo Anthony. Harris maximizes his 6'8" frame on the boards and in the post while still having outstanding speed and quickness to dominate on fast breaks and to get to the hole at will. Tobias is reliable with the ball in his hands by demonstrating his point forward capabilities. All that's left is for Tobias to work on the consistency of his pull-up jumpers and his 3-balls.

Magic fans should have full faith in Harris' work ethic and should hope for his 4th season to be by far his best and healthiest. I know Tobias' agent and his bank account are counting on it.

Rob Hennigan has to decide on if he'll offer Tobias a contract extension this summer or if he should allow the free market in 2015 to determine T12's value. Harris is expected to make about $2.38 million in '14-'15. Harris' value of worth is much more difficult to determine. Unlike with Vucevic, Tobias' fate can fluctuate depending on who the Magic draft in June. Tobias has earned the right to be a starter next season, whether it be at SF or PF. 

Let's look at some new-CBA contracts of players who have comparative production to Tobias. One that jumped out at me immediately was Thaddeus Young's 5-year, $43 million deal with the Sixers in late 2011 following the Lockout. Nicolas Batum back in 2012 got a 4-year, $44 million deal from Portland. Then there's the oft-injured Danilo Gallinari who is earning $42 million over 4 years with Denver. None of these players are considered overpaid, but none of them have lived up to their contract. Yet, their salaries rank in the top 15 of SFs. 

It's not a stretch to say that Tobias currently is a top 15 small forward. He'll get paid like one, whether by the Magic or another franchise. The range is between $9 million and $12 million per year salary. There has been zero indication of Tobias not being part of Orlando's future toward championship contention. He should and will be a starter even if the Magic were to obtain a Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins.

'Henny' should offer T12 around a 4-year, $40 million extension with incentives for up to $44 million. That's $10 million per season. He along with Vucevic and Oladipo are part of the core towards an NBA title. Harris will be compensated like it. When the extension ends, Tobias would barely still be 26 years of age. Harris would be in his prime and Orlando would know by then if Tobias is the superstar that I believe he will be. 

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