It is time for the Sixers to bench Tobias Harris

The Sixers look miserable without Joel Embiid. There is no getting around that, but there are possible tweaks Nick Nurse could make to help this team perform at a higher level. The most logical tweak is to bench Tobias Harris.
Philadelphia 76ers v Utah Jazz
Philadelphia 76ers v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

Looking at the numbers Harris is putting up this season, nothing stands out as glaringly awful, but it is noteworthy that he is shooting 3.3 three-pointers per game. Which is the lowest amount he has shot since his first year on the Pistons in the 2015-2016 season. Aside from that, Harris is getting to the free throw line more than in previous seasons, and his percentages are not too far off from his career numbers. Despite this, he needs to be benched.

The problems with Tobias Harris have been well-documented throughout his tenure in Philadelphia. His contract has always been abysmal, he does not shoot enough threes, he does not get to the free-throw line enough, his best skill is scoring and even that is done at a mediocre level, and he is not clutch. He is not awful, but he is an exceptionally mediocre player who has no future in Philadelphia and is not very conducive to winning given his skill set.

In the eight games Harris has played since the Embiid injury, he is shooting even fewer threes (2.6 per game) and is converting them at a lower percentage (24%). This is a guy who participated in the three-point shootout a few years ago. His regression as a shooter is something Philadelphia has become very familiar with over the years with different players, but it is puzzling, nonetheless. 

Harris has also been scoring less per game as a whole, which is alarming considering the number of touches that are now available with Embiid being out. Tobias Harris has never been one to rise to the occasion when the team needs him, but even for him, this is bad.

Since arriving in Philadelphia, the Sixers have not experimented with bringing Tobias Harris off the bench. In fact, Harris has not come off the bench since the aforementioned 2015-2016, where he started seventy-four out of seventy-six games. This would be quite the adjustment for Harris, but it could help the team.

Why should the Sixers bench Harris now?

Simply put, he has no future here and the Sixers have nothing to lose with experimenting with the rotation. In previous years, Harris was the highest-paid player and was under contract for a long time. If the Sixers had any chance to trade him, they could not bench one of the highest-paid players in the league, thus creating drama around the team when they would inevitably fail at trading him.

Now Harris has an expiring contract, so the Sixers have to strictly think about how this will affect them on the court. The Sixers also have two players who are upgrades over Tobias Harris, Nicolas Batum, and Kelly Oubre. 

Though Batum’s counting numbers are low, he is one of the smartest players on the team that provides a playmaking punch and a quick trigger from deep. He is simply a much better player than Harris and makes life much easier for Tyrese Maxey.

Kelly Oubre certainly has his warts and has not been playing his best.

but he offers unique athleticism, quick decision-making, and length that nobody else on the team has. For better or worse, Oubre relentlessly attacks the rim and draws fouls. The most conventional solution would be to start both Oubre and Batum, while Harris could lead the bench unit as a sixth-man scoring option; however, the Sixers can also experiment with starting three guards.

The most obvious three-guard lineup is Tyrese Maxey, Buddy Hield, and De’Anthony Melton, but Kyle Lowry has been extremely compelling in the two games he has played for the Sixers. If they were to go to a three-guard lineup, they should still go with Maxey, Hield, and Melton as Lowry continues to get acclimated to the team. Melton provides defense and length that Hield and Maxey do not possess and while he is small, he is still a very good fit with those two. The quick three-point shooting is another benefit, as well as the additional ball handler (though Melton is not exactly Chris Paul in that respect).

As Lowry continues to familiarize himself with the team, he also has a lot of the same qualities as Melton but is a much better ball-handler and arguably the best passer on the roster. In his brief stint, Lowry has unlocked some of the off-ball offense that has not been unable to be unleashed this year due to a lack of perimeter playmaking from the rest of the team.

Either lineup change offers positives, and it is something Nick Nurse should experiment with while Joel Embiid remains out. Despite the negative connotation of being benched, it is also possible that Tobias Harris thrives as a bench scorer. It would put him in a low-pressure role where he can more comfortably do his isolation and post-up scoring from the mid-range that he so clearly prefers to do. 

Even if Harris doesn’t succeed, it is better than arguably sabotaging the starting lineup, and at that point, the Sixers could look to play Ricky Council IV over him (or Robert Covington when he returns from injury). The clock is ticking on the time Tobias Harris has left with the Sixers and they need to put his feelings and the politics of benching one of the highest-paid players in the league aside to try to win some games.