Doc Rivers could be some sort of Tobias Harris whisperer. Although the former first-round pick out of Tennessee has always been a solid player in the NBA even before he first linked up with Rivers on the Los Angeles Clippers, he's never looked better while playing under any other head coach in the NBA.
With the Milwaukee Bucks, Harris averaged four points-per-game while shooting 29-percent from three. In Orlando, he put up 15 PPG, draining 30-percent of his threes. Then with the Pistons, he averaged 16 PPG, shooting 37-percent from deep.
Finally, during the 2017-2018 season, Harris linked with Rivers in Los Angeles. In 32 games, the veteran forward put up 19 points-per-game and shot a career-best 41-percent from three during the back end of the 2017-2018 season.
The following year, Harris was off to a great start with the Clippers as he was averaging a career-high of 20 points-per-game and 43-percent from deep. While the Rivers-Harris connection was solid, the Clippers couldn't get the veteran forward back with a hefty extension. Harris was willing to bet on himself for even more as he was entering the 2019 offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
Therefore, the Clippers looked to get value out of him via the trade market. The Philadelphia 76ers rented Harris for the rest of the year. While he was decent during his first stint in Philly, Harris wasn't the same player.
In 27 games, Harris put up 18 PPG while sinking just 32-percent of his three-point shots. Understanding he was thrown into the fire with limited time, the Sixers didn't lose faith in Harris' ability to get back to the way he was playing in LA. So, they confidently offered the veteran forward a max contract, which he signed.
During his first full season with the 76ers, Harris became one of the team's most reliable scorers. However, he still couldn't reach his Clippers production. In 72 games, Harris accounted for 19 PPG while shooting 36-percent from three. Seeing as though he's now in the max-contract column, Philly expected more out of him.
Brett Brown couldn't figure it out -- and he no longer needed to try as he was let go after coaching the Sixers for seven seasons. When the Sixers searched for a new head coach, a lot of the emphasis was on finding a coach who can maximize Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons's talents. Ironically enough, Philly landed the guy that has proven to get the best out of the team's third star with Doc Rivers.
This year, Harris is making a bid for the All-Star game. Whether he will actually make it or not is unclear, but he has the numbers to state a legitimate case. In 24 games this season, Harris is good for roughly 20 points-per-game. From beyond-the-arc, his average is back to Clippers form as he's knocking down 41-percent of his shots.
Rivers made it clear before the season that he plans to get Harris back on the right track. And so far, it's being proven that his strategy is working. Is it all just a coincidence? Or does Rivers truly know how to get the best out of Harris? The veteran forward recently weighed in on the topic during a Q&A session with Shaun Powell.
"I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Coach knows my game, he knows things that I do very well. When we were in L.A., he was the coach who put me in those positions, so he’s doing the same thing here. He’s always pushing me to be better and be decisive on the court, be a leader for our team and be my best self night in and night out. He expects a lot of me and that’s what I want as a player."
Rivers mentioned before the season that he wants Harris to make quicker decisions and avoid hesitating with the ball. This season, Harris has dribbled less and catches and shoots it without hesitation a lot more. There's still a lot of basketball left to be played, but 24 games into his first season under Rivers in Philly, it's apparent that the former Clippers head coach truly knows how to help Harris reach his full potential.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_