10 things worth liking about Tobias Harris

On the court, it’s been a very good summer for the Milwaukee Bucks. A big part of that has been Tobias Harris, the 19th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. After receiving sporadic minutes last season, he was named to the Las Vegas Summer League All-Star team. He looked a little bit leaner and equally as fluent on offense throughout the Bucks week in Vegas.

Given the way things have shaken out this summer, it seems safe to start to consider just how big of a role and how much of an impact Harris is going to make next season and it certainly doesn’t seem unreasonable to project a pretty positive future for Harris, next season and beyond.

I started digging into Harris a little bit, researching and remembering things about him. And a found a thing or two I liked. And then another thing or two, followed by another. Pretty soon, I had a nice round number.

Tobias Harris. Or as I call him, the Sous Chef of Summer League.

1. Does anyone else want to view the Bucks current inability/failure to land a veteran wing as a sign that they could actually be a little more excited about Harris than logic might dictate they should be? I know that according to Jodie Meeks the Bucks are courting Jodie Meeks, but he’s more of a shooter to play the two guard.

There are minutes open at the three. Mike Dunleavy will take some, and maybe the Bucks really do think Luc Mbah a Moute can hold up there, but we all know once the season starts, he’ll end up sliding back to the four when Larry Sanders fouls a ref 20 seconds into game one. And who will be there to scoop up the rest of the small forward minutes? The young sir Tobias Harris. The Bucks faith in him – that maybe I’ve created – is something worth liking.

Harris in Summer League. (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

2. He’s just turned 20 years old.

3. Three players have played less than 500 minutes as a teenage rookie and scored more than 150 points: Jermaine O’Neal, Gerald Wallace and Tobias Harris.

4. Wallace and Harris are an interesting contrast. Yes, Wallace is far more athletic. And yes, Harris plays with a more obvious awareness of where and when he’s supposed to attack. But both have some physical advantages over most small forward. For Wallace, he’s used his leaping ability and first step to get in the paint and on the line quite a bit. For Harris, he could use his size and strength to muscle up smaller forwards in the post and in the paint. Both were 19-year-old rookies capable of scoring and rebounding a bit.

If you card enough to check out Basketball-Reference, you can see that Harris was certainly more refined offensively – considerably higher field goal and free throw percentages. If he could develop into a more threatening offensive player with half the defensive ability of Wallace, that would be terrific.

6. I wrote about this right when Harris was drafted, but it’s worth re-visiting for a moment: He’s a different kind of project. As a basketball player, particularly as an offensive one, he really is quite adept. It was losing a couple pounds and getting used to the speed of the game that he really needed to do. With no summer league and then dehydration/a blood disorder/possibly having been bit by a zombie keeping him out of training camp last year, he really didn’t get much of a chance to get caught up to the speed last season.

Now he’ll have had the benefit of a whole season, summer league and training camp when this next season starts. He’ll probably still be a little ways away defensively, but it seems reasonable to think Harris will be a physically fit and capable NBA player come late October.

7. 21.5 points and eight rebounds per game in his first summer league, going into his second season, at age 20. Nice.

8. Harris was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. Personally, I like guys who were once regarded as elite prospects. It’s easy to forget that Harris was in that class, as he played for a Tennessee team that didn’t make the lost in embarrassing fashion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and fell to 19th in the draft as a relative unknown.

9. He started in nine games for the Bucks as a rookie. Generally speaking, most rookies that have started at least that many games have turned out okay for the Bucks. Notable exceptions: Tractor Traylor, Yi Jianlian, Eric Mobley, Anthony Avent and Larry Sa….we’ll give him another year.

10. Harris is from Long Island. Julius Erving is from Long Island.

(Note: I only had nine things.)

Jeremy Schmidt is the editor of Bucksketball.com. “He’s a pleasure to follow on Twitter.” – Jeremy Schmidt

Categories: The Off Season

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  1. Never understood why people were commenting that he was a bust.. Like the way Hammond doesn’t just call him a project, but a long-term project.. shows that they have confidence in him.. Honestly, I would start him and keep a very short leash

    •  @JustinNixon 
      Some idiot called him a bust? I thought anyone who watched the Bucks last year agreed he is  a ray of hope, especially being a rookie with no training camp.

  2. I think they should start him this season. We don’t have many other options at the three spot unless they start Mbah a Moute, and I’d rather keep Dunleavy on the bench as the designated scorer. He thrived in that position last year, and we could certainly use that again this year. 
    There’s a lot to like about Harris’ game: he’s an incredible offensive talent at such a young age, able to score in a variety of ways, as well as rebound the ball relatively well. The only things I noticed about him that could definitely improve is his passing (he can get pretty lazy with his passes and the turnovers build up) and his defense around the perimeter. He’s pretty good in the post with his length and size, but he doesn’t have the quickness laterally to keep up with some SFs and that allows them to drive past for easy baskets.
    Still, I haven’t been this excited about one of our younger players since Jennings. He has a ton of potential and ability. 

  3. Tobias can score and bang the boards a bit. But until he can prove that he has the lateral quickness to defend NBA Small Forwards on a regular basis I think LRMAM has to start at the 3. The starting lineup of Jennings, Ellis, LRMAM, Ersan, Dalembert can score enough points between the guards and the front court crashing the boards.
    The 2nd Unit looks even more intriguing having Harris, and Dunleavy (maybe even Lamb) for instant offense. Udrih’s steady play at PG and some combination of Gooden, Henson, Udoh on the boards and anchoring the defense.
    I am biased but i like all of those players and think they can all contribute in a positive way on the court and if Skiles can find the right rotations and the players fulfill the roles they are paid to do, this might be a decent team after all. Not by any means a championship team, but competitive and worth watching every night without wanting to gauge out ur own eyes.

    •  @Teddddd Jennings/Ellis/LRMAM/Ilyasova/Dalembert is the likely starting lineup, true, and we’d certainly benefit from it by having a defensive stopper on the floor with these guys. I’m just hoping that Skiles will give Harris a good amount of playing time this season. It’s disappointing that he really hasn’t given any of our younger players the opportunities he gave Jennings when he first came to Milwaukee.

        •  @MatthewSchwendinger 
          And I can’t think of any other youngster that has. Larry needs more PT, but all he’s proven so far is that he has the potential to be a defensive presence when his head isn’t in space. Chris Douglas-Roberts was playing behind Salmons, Maggette and Dooling two years ago.

        •  @Marq  until Larry learns to stay tall and not slap players he will be a bench gargoyle. .Skiles should explore the “Kickboxer” technique of caning LS’s arms every time he brings them down on a player instead of staying straight up.. both Henso and Ekpe are light years ahead in post defense and will probably absorb those backup minutes.. unless you think he is a backup center

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  5. From the little that I saw of Harris last season I thought that he made it look easy.  He got on the floor and scored at the hoop like they forgot who they were playing.  Granted with an “unknown” it might have caught some offguard, but still, made it look easy and good.  Smooth operator

  6. PattiRafalskiDavison

    It’s all about match ups.  Harris can play against some SF and start against those teams, but I’ll bet you when it comes to defense against Lebron, Durant, Pierce, and Carmelo, Skiles will and should put LRMBM in to challenge them.  Harris may learn to play against these guys, but right now my money is on the prince.

    • MatthewSchwendinger

       @PattiRafalskiDavison I cannot agree more with this. Prolly against the great teams (listed above) Luc makes the most sense at least until Tobias works/improves a little more on defense (not saying he’s bad, but Luc is great on D). I think it’s going to be interesting what happens net week when John Hammond has lunch (or whatever they do) with Joel P. If we sign Joel and Jodie (come back home Meeks!) I think we could see something go down for Larry Sanders and/or Luc. Also, if we have Sam D. then his break on the floor would be replaced by Joel. Where does Epke fit in? That’s kind of what I wonder. Would he play behind Ersan? What about Henson? Thoughts?

      • MatthewSchwendinger

         @PattiRafalskiDavison I think my empathy (lack of a better word) for Larry Sanders is dwindling. I am not so sure I wouldn’t take a high 2nd round pick from a crappy team (Kings, Warriors, Detroit, etc.) for him.

        •  @MatthewSchwendinger @PattiRafalskiDavison If Larry Sanders is sitting at the end of the bench, it wouldn’t be the worst situation. Considering last year we had Jon “Lol” Brockman for garbage/emergency minutes. IMHO Larry will find his role on this team and flourish. As far as Harris/Mbah a Moute go, If you guys recall last year when the Bucks upset the Heat at home. Skiles put Mbah a Moute on Lebron in the 4th as a defensive closer and it was highly effective. Probably my favorite game last year. 

        • MatthewSchwendinger

           @ThisIsntUnicef  @PattiRafalskiDavison I would think though IF we signed someone like Joel P. (or any other Center) that Sanders would (unfortunately) become the next Brockman though—-> garbage minutes & lots of fouls to give.

    • You’re right its all about match-ups,  Luke is a defensive specialist who can start at SF or PF (maybe even G) and defend exceptional offensive players. So when we play a team with an average SF, is there any reason Harris shouldn’t start? I want Dunleavy to get solid minutes too but he’s fit really well to come off the bench and make tired players chase him around screens.

  7. @ patti 
    I completely agree.  Harris will get plenty of burn at 3 this year, but LRMAM is THE best defensive player on the team.  He will start and guard the most adept player on the opposition every night.  It shouldn’t be any other way.  Besides, we need scoring to come off the bench.  Dunleavy can’t score every basket for the second unit

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  9. Okay, surprise: I LOVE this guy. He reminds me of Marques Johnson. Even looks a lot like him.
    PLEASE give him the minutes he needs and don’t waste them on Dunleavy, et al. Let’s find out what we have, because i think he’ll be better than Brandon Jennings is.

    •  @flyingking 
      This might be the first comment of yours I’ve read that isn’t completely depressing. Keep up the good work.

  10. It’s not who starts the game, it’s who finishes it. I really hope Harris can develop into a finisher offensively. I think my favorite, underrated finisher of all time was Jamal Mashburn. The offense ran through him every fourth quarter and it seemed like he always got to the rim or the foul line. He also had a deadly fadeaway from the block. If Harris could become that kind of player, he’d fill a hole the Bucks have had on their roster since maybe Sidney Moncrief.

  11. MatthewSchwendinger

    One thing is for sure. We do not need Mikeal Pietrius. He’s a SF. Don’t do it Hammond! Just sign Meeks and maybe Joel P. (if he stops being an indecisive baby).