Tobias Harris isn’t raw.
Some players enter the league raw, some enter it polished and most fall into the vast space in between the two extremes. Age often plays a factor, but not always. Some players enter the league raw and exit the league raw. It’s the nature of the game. If basketball were only a physical competition, our all-time leaderboards and memory banks would have quite a different set of information. But basketball is about a whole lot more than your natural gifts.
Larry Sanders is raw. He’s just over 23, which makes him roughly three and a half years older than Tobias Harris, and a little old to be raw, but young enough to still have promise. Whether Sanders will ever cash that check of promise he’s been given remains to be seen. But with the 19-year-old Harris, we can feel a little more confident that he’s going to cash in.
And that’s the advantage of not being raw. If Sanders is raw and, let’s say, Kurt Thomas is well done, Harris is probably medium rare right now. He needs some more time on the grill, but we’re looking at the makings of a pretty nice dinner. But what makes Harris further along, a little better cooked than Sanders?
In his first game with extended minutes, the Bucks rookie shot one fifth as many free throws as Sanders did all last season. He was poised, but relentless in attacking the basket and working in the post.
He knows damn well how to use his strengths on the basketball court.
You could infer that from the way Scott Skiles has begun to hand him minutes fairly quickly in his rookie season – Skiles traditionally only plays players he thinks can help him win – but there’s no ned to infer when Skiles has legitimately has had good things to say about his rookie forward.
“He’s got a nice post up game, he’s got a nice overall game,” Skiles said recently. “When he’s in the game and he’s got people equal size or lighter … we posted him up against a bigger player in Hakim (Warrick) in Phoenix and he took the ball, shot right over him and scored. There’s a lot of things he can do.”
As Skiles noted, Harris has been an instant factor in the post. Before yesterday’s game, Harris was 7/8 on post-up attempts according to mySynergySports.com. I likened Harris to a baby ox when describing him to a friend yesterday. He has good size and strength, but he doesn’t look particularly muscular. I guess that’s the life of a 19-year-old. It also give hopes that he’s going to develop into a real force physically after a couple seasons working with an NBA training staff.
But as with any rookie, whether or not he can be consistent is what will decide whether or not he can put all of his tools to use. Harris already has the misfortune of being a rookie in a lockout shortened season. And if that weren’t enough, he missed the Bucks first six games after a bout with dehydration. So his conditioning needs work.
With conditioning, perhaps will come consistency, the key to more minutes.
“Tobias has some things you can’t teach,” Skiles said. “He’s a quick leaper, he can attack the front of the rim and he can make open shots. We’re very high on him, but we have to see what he can do game after game after game. Can he be consistent and things like that.”
“His issue right now is just trying to catch up conditioning wise. He’s got a lot of facets to his game. It’s going to be interesting watching him play and develop.”
Thursday night’s five minute, four foul effort was probably not what Harris or Skiles had in mind after a strong first two games for the rookie, but there are bound to be bumps in the road as he works to get his wind back. As for what he can develop into once he does get that wind, a high percentage, high average scorer doesn’t seem out of the question. But the Bucks think he can be more than just a one dimensional player.
“He’s learning out there defensively,” Skiles said. “He hasn’t played very much and he hasn’t practiced very much. It’s not only trying to internalize our team defensive schemes, but also he’s playing against guys he’s never played against before. He hasn’t taken a lap around or anything like that. We’re confident fairly quickly he’s going to be a very good defender.”
A scorer and a defender? An original concept for the Bucks of the last two years. A welcome one too. The benefits of a rookie with some polish are showing already.