The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t make it to the NBA finals, let alone the Eastern Conference finals. There were several reasons why the Sixers didn’t advance and one of which was that they didn’t have a perimeter player that they could turn to get buckets late in games.
Now they paid Tobias Harris $180 million for five year two offseason ago and one of the unsaid expectations was that he could be the 76ers late game closer. Outside of a game winner against the Los Angeles Lakers this past season, Harris hasn’t really lived up to that billing.
Don’t be mistake, Harris had his best postseason this last year by far, but he needs to become a closer and it’s not impossible for him to do so. He needs to be watching a guy like Khris Middleton who wasn’t a closer to begin his career but has become one these playoffs.
Harris needs to be a closer for the Sixers next season.
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Middleton was critized for years not being a closer for the Milwaukee Bucks in the past. Their best player Giannis Antetokounmpo can’t shooting outside shots, so they need another guy that can do that. Middleton is the team’s second All-Star player, but until these playoffs, he never showed he could consistently be the go-to guy down the stretch.
However, at the age of 29, Middleton finally figured how to be a late game closer on a somewhat consistant basis. Considering that Harris recently celebrated his 29th birthday, this could be the year that Harris learns how to be a closer. That’s something that the 76ers despartly need moving forward.
Joel Embiid is a big man like Antetokounmpo, but they are foundamentally different as star players. Embiid can shoot and can make late game shots, but needs to be fed the ball, where as Antetokounmpo can create off the dribble but can’t score effeciently outside of the paint.
Either way, both star big men need perimeter closers, and while Antetokounmpo has his, Embiid still needs him. Ben Simmons can’t be it for the Sixers and there’s a chance he’s not even on the team so unless they get a bonefied one in a trade, that leaves Harris to take that next step.
That being written, it won’t be an easy task for Harris based on how he best plays. Harris is at his best when he makes quick decisions and can play down hill. Closers usually create off the dribble and while Harris is capable of doing so, its not a strength of his. However, if he focuses on it during the offseason there’s a chance he can improve that part of his game.
Unless the Philadelphia 76ers get a big time closer in a trade this offseason, the burden lands on Harris to take the next step. He has to learn how to mimic Middleton’s development into the closer if the Sixers want a chance to compete for a title.