With a crucial offseason forthcoming, the Orlando Magic have a lot of questions to be answered. Who do they select with their two lottery picks? What impact do those selections have on Victor Oladipo’s position going forward? Do they cut ties with their longest tenured player and starting point guard, Jameer Nelson? Do they extend the likes of Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic?
As you can see, the list goes on and on. However, outside of the ever important draft questions, one sticks out: Do they extend Tobias Harris?
Harris is one of the more intriguing players that general manager Rob Hennigan has pieced together in the city beautiful. Harris was acquired in a trade from the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline in 2013, and hasn’t disappointed in his time with the team. In 88 games with the Magic, Harris has averaged 15.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.
Despite his production on the floor, there are still questions about where Harris fits on the team in the long term. Harris can play both forward positions, but with that flexibility comes some issues as well.
Small forward per 48-Minute numbers per 82games.com
Power forward per 48-Minute numbers per 82games.com
Harris was productive at both positions, but also had some problems at each. Playing small forward, Harris is a slightly less efficient player, as the spacing on the floor is hurt with a second big man out there. However, statistically speaking, he’s better on the defensive end, but still has his share of struggles guarding some of the quicker more nimble small forwards.
While Harris plays power forward, he opens up a lot more options for the offense with his added spacing. This allows the teams main guards – Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo- more room to operate in the offense, opening driving and passing lanes to find cutters and open teammates. Harris is slightly more efficient playing power forward, while making a greater impact overall on the game; however, his defense leaves a lot to be desired.
The former Tennessee Volunteers role on the team going forward is still up in the air, however. Harris split time starting and coming off the bench this season, but has said the flux in when he gets in the game doesn’t matter, he just wants to help his team win.
Per-36 minutes splits
Based on the per-36 minute numbers, Harris has a greater impact on the team coming off the bench. Not only did he score and rebound at a higher rate, but he made more of an impact on both sides of the ball as well. He seems to have found a comfort level coming off the bench, and seems like he could excel as a sixth man going forward. If he were to continue to come off the bench, Harris would bring added versatility to the bench unit, while also being able to be a plug in starter when they may need him to be.
The fiery Harris was asked what he would like to see his role as next year, to which he had this to say: “It doesn’t matter. I’m the type of player, and I’ve shown it throughout this year, that whatever role you want me at I’m going to excel at it. I’m not going to pout, I’m just going to come out to work every day and do what I can for my teammates. So, I think the biggest thing for me is just winning and getting into a position where we can win games and whatever role that is for me, you know, I know I’ll be part of it and I’ll excel at it.”
Harris is one of the most promising youngsters brought on by Rob Hennigan, but his future with the team is murky. This offseason Harris will be eligible for a contract extension, and at this point, it’s unclear how much he’s going to be worth and how much the team is willing to pay. If an extension is not agreed upon on or before October 31st, Harris will hit free agency following the conclusion of next season. If this happens, Harris will be a restricted free agent; if he signs an offer sheet with another team, Orlando will have three days to match or let Harris walk.
The next 12 months will be huge for Harris and his future not only in Orlando, but in the league as well. If he’s able to take the next step with his game, it could make it almost impossible for the Magic to let him walk, no matter how large of a contract offer he gets. On the flip side, if Harris struggles, he could see money go down the drain, and be forced to prove himself all over again to garner the long-term contract that he’s inevitably working towards.