Ever since Tobias Harris inked a max contract with the Philadelphia 76ers two summers ago, the veteran forward had a hard time earning credit for his on-court performances. This year, outside of the first matchup against the Washington Wizards, Harris is making it difficult for critics to have something negative to say.
Four games into the 2020-2021 NBA season, Harris is averaging 17 points-per-game. His offensive production in the scoring department sits second behind Joel Embiid for the 76ers. While Harris has had several solid showings in four games so far, his performance against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night might've been his best game yet.
In 37 minutes of action, Harris drained 11 of his 21 attempted shots from the field. In the second half, his aggressiveness helped the Sixers will their way to a tight 100-93 win over the Raptors. While Harris' 26-point double-double stat line was hard to miss, his nine defensive rebounds, two steals, and two blocks on defense were major as well.
Joel Embiid might've been the MVP when Tuesday's matchup was all said and done, but Sixers head coach Doc Rivers and fourth-year All-Star Ben Simmons made it clear just how important Harris was for their team against Toronto.
“He was huge,” Simmons said in regards to Harris. “Whenever you have somebody going, you want to keep feeding them and going with that momentum. He was great for us, and Joel also was dominant, so those two guys together had great offensive games and then defensively as a team, we really stepped up.”
Rivers, who has seen the absolute best out of Harris in previous years with the Los Angeles Clippers, is beginning to be reminded of how aggressive and useful Harris can be when he's making quicker decisions and taking leadership.
“I just thought in the second half, he got very aggressive on both ends,” Rivers said about Harris. "What I loved about that was Tobias had it going, and he looked at the matchup and said, ‘We’re going down to the post.’ That’s the type of stuff you love as a coach. That was the right decision, too, by the way. That leadership and that toughness that he showed was terrific tonight.”
Harris' contract calls for that type of performance on a nightly basis. While he's been one of the most consistent players for the 76ers over the last season, the organization paid him to be a guy who can significantly impact wins night in and night out. So far this season, Harris is earning his pay. Now, the Sixers are hopeful he continues to build on such a strong performance against a solid team.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_