2012 Player Capsules: Tobias Harris

Four feet. That was the difference between Lebron James winning a title last season and losing one the season before. To clarify, that’s four feet closer to the basket. Tobias Harris wants to be that four feet closer than other wings his age and he operates well there. For that reason alone, the Bucks should be thankful to have him.

Controlling the paint never stopped being the key. The Jordan era, golden age of point guards, stretch 4s and lack of traditional, quality centers hasn’t changed that. It has just redefined how it could be done. Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo are nearly the best rebounders on their teams. Dwyane Wade is one of the league’s premier-shot blockers. Kurt Thomas wily, veteran tricks carried the Bucks when Andrew Bogut went down in 2009. It’s not about finding guys at certain positions to do certain things. It’s about finding any guy that will either give the value needed or (in Thomas’s case) nullify what the other team can do.

The Bucks are set up to have a good season in the paint – at least offensively. They have Ersan Ilyasova’s elite offensive rebounding. Monta Ellis is one of the premiere post scorers in the league (true story – Synergy has Ellis ranked sixth overall in post up attempts with 1.07 points per possession). Then there’s Harris who’s just about ready to blossom into someone who’s pretty damn good.

Harris has been compared to Carmelo Anthony. It makes sense in that they have the same body type and are or potentially are prolific scorers. But Anthony shuns what someone with his body should do. John Holllinger’s player profile of Anthony says it all, “Dominant power forward masquerading as a 3.” Harris has embraced what his body type was meant for and he’s embraced the strengths that can make him a great scorer. He attacks the basket. Per game, Harris averages 1.6 attempts at the rim, 1 attempt 3-9 feet away, 0.3 attempts 10-15 feet away, 0.6 attempts 16-23 feet away, and 0.5 attempts from three.

Anthony fades away – toward the perimeter where inefficiency dwells. When Harris goes to shoot his body is always moving toward the basket. The fade away is certainly in vogue and a weapon that shouldn’t be shunned, but it makes too much sense to moving your body forward gives you a better chance than going backward. I pretty much love him for doing that.

So will Tobias Harris be able to defend the perimeter, or what’s up? (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Harris lacks the quickness to defend on the perimeter. That’s why he didn’t get to play last year. But he thrives in physical play. His rebounding rate is just above average, but there’s plenty of room for growth there. With the league moving toward smaller, faster lineups, it makes too much sense to shove Harris in at the four. If Scott Skiles keeps him at the wing (he will because the Bucks have too many power forwards), we might miss something special.

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  1. He’s gotten in better shape since a year ago and has turned his extra pounds into muscle. I cautiously look forward to his growth this coming season, but I just hope his defense can keep up with his offensive. We need players that can be effective on both ends of the floor.

  2. good article but I question this: “Harris lacks the quickness to defend on the perimeter. That’s why he didn’t get to play last year.”
    Im sure he can guard at the perimeter as well as any other wing on the Bucks roster besides LRMAM. He’s certainly a better defender than Dunleavy, and probably as good as Carlos ‘Im selling out for the steal everytime’ Delfino. His lack of playing time is probably more attributable to his limited experience overall and Skiles approach to developing young players.
     Let’s not be so hasty to label players as good or bad defenders. It seems like much more analysis and a wider array of descriptors is used to rate players offensive abilities, but when it comes to defense we are quick to say simply good or bad. Defense in the NBA is similar to pass defense in football, the advantage is heavily on the side of the offense. Even the best defenders are going to get beat, a lot of their value has to do with how seriously they take defending and their persistence/effort on every possession. We’ll see how he defends this year. I’m optimistic.

    •  @sillybilly I was not quick to label Harris as good or bad on defense. In fact, I thought of a very specific reason as to why he can’t defend well on the perimeter. It’s not much, but it’s analysis: he’s not laterally quick. That’s been a knock on him since college. I don’t know how anyone can watch Tobias Harris and go, “Wow! He is quick.” But I did suggest that he could be good defending inside. He has the strength to do it.
      And yes, he doesn’t get playing time because of a lack of experience – on defense. Defense in the NBA isn’t just effort. There’s nuance. Know when to show, when not to show, where your help defenders are, when you need to help etc. Skiles will play rookies. IF they understand the nuances of defense. Jennings got playing time. LRMAM got playing time. They knew the nuances of defense. Sanders didn’t. Leuer didn’t. Harris didn’t. You can try as hard as you want, but if you do stupid things, then you suck on defense. Smart defenders are better than effort defenders.

      •  @Ian_Segovia  yea I agree with everything you said but won’t concede that Tobias is not laterally quick enough to be a good perimeter defender. Ive used this example before but Jason Kidd is still quite a competent defender and is by no measure quick as far as NBA standards go. I think fundamentals and effort have a lot to do with it. Harris has the talent to be an above average defender if he wants to be, most players in the NBA aren’t as committed to defense as much as their offensive game. And to the contrary I would say Harris is relatively quick.
        as far as smart/effort defenders it certainly depends on what type of defense you are playing. Generally being a smart defender is more important, but if you aren’t getting to the right spot quickly enough you’re not much more valuable than the guy who is flying around to all of the wrong places.

        •  @sillybilly  Tobias is capable of being quick, but his lateral quickness is very questionable, and it showed during summer league. When he could defend in the post and use his combination of size and length, he was very capable of shutting down whomever he was guarding, but when he was forced to defend on the perimeter, players were able to drive past him with relative ease. 
          Obviously there are ways to work around not being quick or strong or whatever the case may be, but Tobias isn’t there yet, and he’ll need to be if he wants Skiles to give him chances on the court.  

  3. PattiRafalskiDavison

    I’m looking forward to seeing Harris play this season.  His weight redistribution and positive summer league experience could give him a confidence boost which helps him react more quickly on defense.  He has had relatively little coaching, training, practice and playing time.  This season he’ll have the rookie year he should have had last year, but was cut short with the lock out.  He’s moving in the right direction and Skiles will make sure he doesn’t stray!

  4. MasterbatingestBear

    Bro, you can play the 3 and still play like a 4 on offense.   Basketball is basketball, take away the positions and it’s 5 players vs 5 players (duh), not necessarily a PG, SG, etc.  The only thing that matters is that Skiles plays him, and when he does play him, there’s not too many rim cloggers on the floor.

    •  @MasterbatingestBear Who on the Bucks plays 4 on defense and 3 on offense when Harris is on the court then?

      • @Ian_Segovia
        I think you are missing the point that the bear of masturbation was trying to make. Position is a fluid thing. Gotta have someone to protect the basket and someone to bring the ball up the court but beyond that there are many different strategies that can be used and parts of the floor each player can be positioned at. Adhering to a strict position designation is silly. And to answer your question anyway how about Ilya, Henson, Udoh, or LRMAM.

        •  @sillybilly  @Ian_Segovia Position fluidity isn’t a viable option unless there’s an exceptional player serving as a catalyst.
          And only Ilya can properly space the perimeter so Harris could work on the elbow. But that presents two problems: Ilya’s options after setting a pick become limited  and penetration for the guards dies.