The 76ers have always said they intend to keep Tobias Harris past this season.
Back on Feb. 8, general manager Elton Brand spoke of keeping intact the Sixers’ core of Harris, Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid.
“I’ve gotten assurances from the managing partners that we can bring them back and sign them for what we need to sign them for,” Brand said two days after Harris was the headliner in a multiplayer trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. “A lot of things need to happen before that. But we are all on board to keep this core together a long time.”
If not, there will be plenty of suitors in line to give Harris a maximum-salary contract once he becomes an unrestricted free agent at 6 p.m. June 30.
According to several sources, the Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers, and Brooklyn Nets are among the teams that will go after the forward in free agency. All five teams can offer maximum-salary contracts.
By trading for Harris, the Sixers acquired his Bird rights. That enables them to offer him a five-year, $188 million max contract.
Teams that don’t have his rights are only able to offer Harris a four-year, $141 million max contract in free agency. The Sixers will most likely have to offer the five-year maximum for him to stay.
Being in demand gives Harris leverage. Right now, Embiid is the Sixers’ unquestioned franchise player. Depending on the night or situation, Harris is, at best, the third or fourth option. However, he could opt to go someplace where he would be the unquestioned focal point of a team.
The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Harris is capable of playing both forward positions. He’s also an elite three-point shooter and finisher around the basket. The team was hard to beat when the 26-year-old got off to solid starts.
But he’s been underutilized as a Sixer.
He averaged 20.9 points in 55 games with the Clippers this season. His scoring average dropped to 18.2 points in 27 regular-season contests with the Sixers. However, the Sixers didn’t draw plays for Harris. They also went away from him in the second half of their 92-90 loss to Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
He finished with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting. However, he had just two shots – one make – and two points in the fourth quarter despite being the team’s best player through three quarters.
In addition to opportunity, pursuit of an NBA title and a max contract, Harris, a high-character guy, longs to play for a squad with a great chemistry. The Sixers had some chemistry issues this season.
Harris’ departure would be a major blow, considering what they gave up to acquire him.
In order to get Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott from the Clippers on Feb. 6, the Sixers shipped Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, and four draft picks — including a protected 2020 first-rounder and the unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-rounder.
Marjanovic, Scott, Chandler, and Muscala are all in the final year of their contracts. In essence, the Sixers gave up a great young shooter in Shamet and four draft picks for Harris, who could walk on June 30.
Shamet, meanwhile, was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team on Tuesday. Drafted 26th overall in the first round by the Sixers, he flourished as a Clipper, averaging 10.9 points and shooting 45.0 percent on three-pointers while starting 23 of 25 games played with team. Shamet’s combined three-point percentage of .422 ranked first among league rookies. He also made the fourth-most three-pointers (167) by a rookie in NBA history.