Whenever an NBA player is traded midseason, there is typically a difficult adjustment period. Some players get acclimated quicker than others, but there’s no question that it’s a hectic time for the individual. The player must uproot their life in an instant and then figure how to succeed in a different city and system with new teammates and coaches. It’s often a culture shock – on and off the court.
And Tobias Harris’ adjustment from the Orlando Magic to the Detroit Pistons is arguably even tougher than most. That’s because Detroit acquired the 23-year-old forward with the hope that he would be a big-time contributor and one of the Pistons’ leading offensive weapons going forward.
Upon joining the team, Harris became their highest-paid player (earning $16 million this season), raising the pressure even more. Not to mention, he’s learning from Stan Van Gundy, who is the Pistons’ head coach and president of basketball operations. Van Gundy is a bona fide basketball genius, but he is known as a perfectionist who can be hard on his players. If the two can stay on the same page and work well together, Van Gundy should get the most out of Harris and be excellent for his development. But make no mistake, there will likely be a lot of screaming along the way.
Now, as the Pistons make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference, Harris is a key piece for his new franchise. He joins a young core that also includes Andre Drummond, 22, Reggie Jackson, 25, Stanley Johnson, 19, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 23, among others. This group has a ton of potential and, if all goes as planned, they should be a threat in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
However, Van Gundy isn’t the type of coach to sit on his hands and wait for results. He’s determined to end the Pistons’ six-year playoff drought this season.
Detroit is currently 34-33, putting them in ninth place in the increasingly competitive East. In the past, being a .500 squad is typically all it took to be a playoff team in the East, but not this year. Right now, the Pistons have the same record as the eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls, but Detroit doesn’t hold the tiebreaker. Fortunately for the Pistons, the Bulls have been struggling as of late – dealing with injuries to key players and dropping 11 of their last 17 games. The Pistons are on the verge of entering the playoff picture in the conference and a trip to the postseason is a realistic goal at this point.
Interestingly, Detroit is the only East team in the race for eighth that has a positive average point differential (+0.5). The top seven teams in the conference have a positive differential, which makes sense, but the Pistons are the only other squad in the positive. Each of the other teams fighting for one of the final seeds in the East have a negative average point differential: the Bulls (-1.3), Washington Wizards (-1.6), Orlando Magic (-2.0), Milwaukee Bucks (-3.7). In fact, Detroit’s average point differential is greater than four teams currently holding onto a playoff spot in either conference – beating out the Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies (-1.4), Houston Rockets (-.5) and Dallas Mavericks (-.3).
The addition of Harris has certainly helped the Pistons as they battle for a playoff berth. Detroit has won seven of its 11 games since acquiring Harris, and that includes impressive victories over talented teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks among others.
Since joining the Pistons, Harris’ numbers have improved drastically. He’s currently averaging 16.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. His field goal percentage (50.3 percent) and three-point percentage (39.1 percent) are both career-highs. The advanced stats are impressive too. Thus far in Detroit, he’s posting career-highs in offensive rating (118 points scored per 100 possessions), defensive rating (106 points allowed per 100 possessions), player efficiency rating (18), box plus/minus (1.6), true shooting percentage (.600) and assist percentage (12.1).
Those stats are up from his Orlando numbers. In Harris’ 49 games prior to the trade to Detroit, Harris’ scoring average (13.7 points) with the Magic was his lowest since becoming a full-time starter in the NBA. It was a disappointing regression for Harris, who was expected to elevate his game with the Magic after inking a four-year deal worth $64 million this past offseason.
Detroit actually showed interest in Harris over the summer when he was a restricted free agent, but they didn’t extend an offer sheet since it was no secret that Orlando wasn’t going to let him walk away and lose a key asset without receiving some form of compensation.
But what makes the acquisition of Harris even sweeter for Detroit is that they didn’t have to part with much to add him. The Pistons only shipped out veterans Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings in the deal. The move was widely regarded as a steal for the Pistons since they didn’t have to give up a draft pick in the transaction. (By comparison, the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers had to part with first-round selections to add Markieff Morris and Jeff Green, respectively).
Harris was one of the most talented players to change teams prior to the deadline last month, so it was a bit surprising to see him dealt for so little. Jennings’ deal is expiring after this season, making him an unrestricted free agent. As for Ilyasova, only $400,000 of his $8.4 million salary for next year is guaranteed so he can be waived to create cap space, flipped in another trade, or kept by Orlando since he does provide some much-needed shooting to spread the floor. Still, Harris was a young starter who just signed a long-term deal, yet he was moved for veterans who aren’t even starting for the Magic.
League sources told Basketball Insiders that Orlando had some other intriguing offers on the table for Harris, but general manager Rob Hennigan ultimately opted for the Pistons’ package since Jennings and Ilyasova are veterans who can score the ball and – most importantly – had each spent several years playing under Magic head coach Scott Skiles on the Milwaukee Bucks. The belief was that they could hit the ground running, create some momentum for Orlando and help the team climb in the standings. Orlando, like Detroit, entered this season with playoff aspirations; however, they are currently 29-37 (which is 11th in the East and four-and-a-half games outside of the conference’s final playoff spot).
While Harris has only appeared in 13 games for Detroit (with 11 starts), he has drawn rave reviews from Coach Van Gundy.
“He’s a really smart guy. He’s got a great temperament,” Van Gundy told Pistons.com. “He’s a good team guy. I don’t know what the players would say [but] to me, it feels like he’s been with us all year. You’re not feeling like you’ve got a new guy that’s acclimating. You feel like he’s been here all year, even in terms of the way he relates to his teammates. It’s actually been a pretty seamless transition. He’s unselfish. He’s been efficient. He hasn’t needed an inordinate amount of shots to get his stuff done. He moves the ball pretty well. It’s actually been pretty easy.”
Harris’ new teammates seem to love playing with him as well and believe he’s exactly what the team needed.
“He looks great,” Drummond told reporters when asked about Harris. “He’s doing all of the things that we need him to do. When he first came here, I told him, ‘Don’t hesitate. We’re not here to play slow. We want you to run and we want you to try to score the ball when you touch it. If you don’t have anything, free somebody else.’ He came in and he looks great.”
“I’m still trying to figure out Tobias’ game, but I know he’s a great addition to our team, that’s for sure,” Stanley Johnson told Pistons.com. “What I have figured out this far is he puts the ball in the basket and he’s an invaluable leader to our team. He’s a great locker room guy. He’s a great person to hang around, another weapon on our team that we can use in various ways. Especially on the defensive end, we can switch a lot of things.”
The team is hoping that Harris’ versatility and scoring ability can help them improve their offensive efficiency (102.6 points per 100 possessions) and pace (97.6), both of which rank 19th in the NBA.
Harris takes pride in his efficiency, so he could help Detroit in that category. As previously mentioned, his PER of 18 with Detroit thus far is the highest of his career. The forward has been a relatively efficient player throughout his career, especially when put in a proper system that utilizes his strengths and offers structure (which didn’t always happen in Orlando, particularly under former head coach Jacque Vaughn).
“I like to be an efficient player and take efficient shots – shots I know I can make and high percentage shots,” Harris said. “[I] just feed off the other guys. I think that’s one of my best aspects of the game is feeding off everybody else.”
This is Harris’ second time being dealt in a move just prior to the trade deadline. The Bucks shipped Harris (along with Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih) to the Magic in February of 2013 in exchange for J.J. Redick, Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon.
Harris was just 20 years old and a season and a half into his NBA career. It was his introduction to the business side of the NBA, but the move actually ended up being the best thing to happen to Harris’ career. He went from warming the bench in Milwaukee (averaging 4.9 points and 2.0 in 11.6 minutes) to being a focal point in Orlando (averaging 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 blocks in 36.1 minutes that same season). The change of scenery turned Harris into an attractive asset and allowed him to get last summer’s big pay day. He’s hoping this most recent trade works out just as well.
“I’m just looking forward to continue to grow with everybody out here, continue to build chemistry and just continue to do all I can for our team to win,” Harris told reporters. “I’m feeling more comfortable. [I’m] just trying to continue to get a rhythm, continue to learn from the other guys, continue to find my spots out there in the offense and just continue to execute my role out there.
“For me, my whole thing is go out there and play as hard as you can and [you get] rewarded from that. That’s the mindset that I’ve always played with since I got in the NBA and that’s just how I look at the game. I don’t worry about anything else [and] just go out there, play as hard as I can and have fun.”
Harris’ first impression of the Pistons organization has been very positive. Not only does he have a lot of respect for Van Gundy, he’s excited about the group of up-and-coming players that has been assembled.
“Obviously we have a lot of young, athletic players, a lot of length out there,” Harris told reporters. “It helps having Andre in the paint also. He helps clean up a lot of stuff off of the glass. Coach puts us in good positions defensively to make plays and to help each other out. A big thing that we’re trying to do is shrink the court and make it hard for teams to attack the middle.
“I just think as a team we’re playing team basketball and we’re all looking for each other. We’re really playing unselfishly and that’s the name of the game.”
The sample size is small and this is certainly still the honeymoon period for Harris and the Pistons, but the trade sure looks like a great one for both parties thus far. If Van Gundy can continue to develop Harris’ overall game and help him reach his full potential, the Pistons may have added another cornerstone to their already impressive, promising nucleus. It seems like a low-risk, high-reward move that could pay off in a big way for Detroit.
And it’s safe to say that Harris is thrilled with his current situation.
“I love our team,” Harris told Pistons.com. “I love our core that we have here and I love everything about the city and the organization. So I’m happy and I’m excited.”
Is LeBron Enough For Cavs To Get Through The East?
Cleveland’s offense has struggled through the first two games of the playoffs. Can the four-time MVP consistently bail them out? Spencer Davies writes.
After a less-than-encouraging series opener versus the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James responded emphatically and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a bounce back 100-97 victory to even things up at one game apiece.
Scoring the first 13 points of the game itself, The King was a one-man wrecking crew out of the gate and carried that momentum throughout all four quarters of Game 2. His 46 points were James’ second-highest scoring mark between the regular season and the playoffs. In addition, he shot above 70 percent from the field for the sixth time this year.
The four-time MVP pulled down 12 rebounds total, and but all but one of those boards were defensive—the most he’s had since Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago a month ago.
What James did was another classic instance where LeBron reminds us that through all the injuries, drama, and on-court issues, whatever team he’s on always has a chance to go all the way. But having said all of that—can the Cavaliers realistically depend on that kind of spectacular effort for the rest of the postseason? It’s a fair question.
Kevin Love is a solid secondary go-to guy, but he’s struggled to find his rhythm in the first two games. He’s done a solid job defensively between both, but he’s getting banged up and is dealing with knocked knees and a reported torn thumb ligament in the same hand he broke earlier in the season.
Love has admitted that he’d like more post touches instead of strictly hanging out on the perimeter, but it’s on him to demand the ball more and he knows it. But finding that flow can be challenging when James has it going and is in all-out attack mode.
Kyle Korver came to the rescue for Cleveland as the only shooter that consistently converted on open looks. Outside of those three, and maybe J.R. Smith, really, there hasn’t been a tangible threat that’s a part of the offense during this series.
We all pondered whether or not the “new guys” would be able to step up when their respective numbers were called. So far, that hasn’t been the case for the most part.
Jordan Clarkson looks rushed with tunnel vision. Rodney Hood has had good body language out there, but seems reluctant to shoot off dribble hand-offs and is second-guessing what he wants to do. The hustle and effort from Larry Nance Jr. is obvious, but he’s also a good bet to get into foul trouble. Plus, he’s had some struggles on an island against Pacer guards.
As for George Hill, the good news is the impact on the floor just based on his mere presence on both ends (game-high +16 on Wednesday), but he hasn’t really done any scoring and fouled out of Game 2.
Maybe these things change on the road, who knows. But those four, the rest of the rotation, absolutely have to step up in order for the Cavaliers to win this series and fend off this hungry Indiana group, which brings us to another point.
Let’s not forget, the offensive issues aren’t simply because of themselves. After all, the Cavs were a team that had little trouble scoring the basketball in the regular season, so give a ton of credit to the Pacers’ scheme and McMillan’s teachings to play hard-nosed.
Unlike many teams in the league, the strategy for them is to pressure the ball and avoid switches as much as possible on screens. The more they go over the pick and stick on their assignments, the better chance they have of forcing a bad shot or a turnover. That’s what happened in Game 1 and in the majority of the second half of Game 2.
Cleveland has also somewhat surprisingly brought the fight on defense as well. In the first two contests of the series, they’ve allowed under 100 points. Lue’s said multiple times that they’re willing to give up the interior buckets in order to secure the outside, and it’s worked. It doesn’t seem smart when there’s a yellow-colored layup line going on at times, but it certainly paid off by only allowing 34 percent of Indiana’s threes to go down.
Still, looking ahead to what the Cavaliers can do in the playoffs as a whole, it doesn’t bode well. They’re not only locked in a tug-of-war with Indiana, but if they get past them, they could have a Toronto Raptors group chomping at the bit for revenge.
If they’re having this much trouble in the first round, what should make us believe they can barrel through the Eastern Conference as they’ve done in the past?
It’s not quite as obvious or as bad as Cleveland’s 2007 version of James and the rest, but it feels eerily similar for as much as he’s put the team on his back so far. The organization better hope improvement comes fast from his supporting cast, or else it could be a longer summer than they’d hoped for.
2017-18 NBA Report Card: Third-Year Players
Among the third-year players a few budding superstars have emerged, along with some role players who are helping their teams in the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs.
The 2015 NBA Draft has provided the league with a limited quantity of talent so far. After Terry Rozier (at 16th), it’s unlikely that anyone remaining has All-Star potential. Despite the lack of depth, the highest draft slot traded was at number 15, when the Atlanta Hawks moved down to enable the Washington Wizards to select Kelly Oubre Jr.
But placing a definitive “boom” or “bust” label on these athletes might be premature as the rookie contract is standardized at four seasons with an option for a fifth. If their employers are given a fourth year to decide whether a draftee is worth keeping, it seems reasonable to earmark the NBA Juniors’ progress for now and see how they’ve fared after next season’s campaign before making their letter grades official.
The Top Dogs
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: Given the dearth of premier choices and their glaring need up front, it’s hard to envision the T-Wolves drafting anyone but KAT if they had to do it again. Although his scoring average is down from last season (21.3 vs. 25.1 PPG), that trend could be explained by the addition of Jimmy Butler and the team’s deliberate pace (24th out of 30 teams).
To his credit, Towns had career highs in three-point percentage (42.1 percent) and free throws (85.8 percent), while finishing second overall in offensive rating (126.7). His continued improvement in these areas could explain why the Timberwolves ended their 14-year playoff drought.
Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets: Although he was a 2014 draft pick, Jokić’s NBA debut was delayed due to his last year of commitment to the Adriatic League. His productivity as a rookie was limited by both foul trouble and a logjam at the center position, but he still managed 10.0 PPG.
With Joffrey Lauvergne and Jusuf Nurkic off the depth chart, Jokić became the clear-cut starter this season and rewarded Denver’s confidence by averaging 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. And by chipping in 6.1 APG, he provides rare value as a center with triple-double potential.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks: Although he has never played a full season since joining the league, Porzingis has provided enough evidence that he can be a force when healthy. Before his junior campaign was derailed, the Latvian was enjoying career highs of 22.7 PPG and 39.5 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Unfortunately, the Knicks haven’t provided much support at point guard to help with Porzingis’ development. Trey Burke looked impressive down the stretch in Zinger’s absence, but that was in a score-first capacity. Meanwhile, both Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay have underwhelmed. On the plus side, Porzingis’ outside ability paired nicely in the frontcourt with Enes Kanter, who prefers to bully his way underneath.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: Like Porzingis, Booker’s third year in the NBA was cut short by injuries, but that didn’t stop him from achieving career highs in points (24.9 per game), assists (4.7) and three-pointers (38.3 percent) on an otherwise moribund Suns team. Indeed, cracking the 40-point barrier three times in 54 contests was an achievement in and of itself.
While his short-term prospects would’ve been far better on a team like the Philadelphia Sixers (who might have taken him instead of Jahlil Okafor in a re-draft), Booker can still become a franchise cornerstone for the Suns if they are able to build around a young core that also includes T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson.
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers: Despite an inconsistent freshman season at Texas, Turner has become a stabilizing influence at center for the Pacers, whose blueprint consists of surrounding a go-to scorer with role players. While he hasn’t shown drastic improvement in any particular area, he has produced double-digit PPG averages all three years as a pro.
Although Turner’s shot-blocking ability fuels his reputation as a defensive maven, the reality is his 104.8 defensive rating (which is just OK) was skewed by his 110.9 d-rating in losses (it was 100.8 in wins). In order to merit consideration for the NBA’s all-defensive team, he will need to bridge the gap in this discrepancy and impact his team’s ability to win more games in the process.
D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets: Following their respective trades, Russell has fared better in the Big Apple than his 2015 lottery counterpart Emmanuel Mudiay, as the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to cut bait to draft Lonzo Ball. While Ball has shown promise as a rookie, the Lakers’ perception of Russell may have been premature, as the former Buckeye has stabilized a Nets backcourt that had been characterized more by athleticism than consistency.
Despite missing a significant stretch of mid-season games, Russell provided similar numbers for Brooklyn to that of his sophomore season; but without a pick until number 29 in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Nets will have to bank on improved production from DLo and his raw teammates to contend for the eight-seed in the East.
Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics: Injuries have paved the way for Rozier to showcase his talent, most recently with a 23-point, 8-assist effort in game two against the Milwaukee Bucks. But Rozier was already making headlines as a fill-in for Kyrie Irving whenever he was injured. Now that the starting point guard reins have been handed to the former mid-round pick, he has become one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2017-18 NBA season.
The biggest impediment to Rozier’s success might be the regression to limited playing time once Irving returns. While the Celtics could “sell high” and trade Rozier on the basis of his recent performances, they may opt to retain him as insurance while he is still cap-friendly.
Best of the Rest
Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers: Following the trade deadline, Nance has provided a spark for a Cavs frontcourt that has been bereft of viable options aside from Kevin Love.
Josh Richardson, Miami HEAT: A jack-of-all-trades at the small forward position, Richardson has evolved into a three-and-D player that has meshed well with the HEAT’s shut-down focus.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings: Thrust into the starting center role after the trade of DeMarcus Cousins, WCS has provided serviceable (albeit unspectacular) play as the next man up.
Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors: A key contributor for the East’s top seed, Wright was instrumental in the Raptors’ game one victory over the Washington Wizards with 18 points off the bench.
Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls: The former Razorback has flashed double-double potential, but playing time at his true position (power forward) has been limited by the emergence of rookie Lauri Markkanen.
NBA Daily: Looking At The 2018 Draft Class By Tiers
The NBA Draft is a hard thing to predict, especially when it comes to draft order and individual team needs, Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler takes a look at how this draft looks in tiers.
Looking At The 2018 Draft In Tiers
While Mock Drafts are an easy way to look at how the NBA Draft might play out, what they do no do is give a sense of what a specific player might be as a player at the next level. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how some of the notable NBA draft prospects project.
It’s important to point out that situation and circumstance often impact how a player develops, even more so than almost any other variable.
So while the goal here is to give a sense of how some NBA teams and insiders see a draft prospect’s likely potential, it is by no means meant to suggest that a player can’t break out of his projection and become more or sometimes less than his he was thought to be.
Every draft class has examples of players projected to be one thing that turns out to be something else entirely, so these projections are not meant to be some kind of final empirical judgment or to imply a specific draft position, as each team may value prospects differently.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at the 2018 NBA Draft in Tiers.
The Potential Future All-Stars
DeAndre Ayton – Arizona – C – 7’0″ – 245 lbs – 20 yrs
Luka Doncic – Real Madrid – SG – 6’7″ – 218 lbs – 19 yrs
Michael Porter Jr – Missouri – SF/PF – 6’10” – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Maybe Stars, But Likely High-Level Starters
Jaren Jackson Jr. – Michigan State – PF – 6’10” – 225 lbs – 19 yrs
Marvin Bagley III – Duke – PF – 6’11” – 220 lbs – 19 yrs
Wendell Carter – Duke – PF – 6’10” – 257 lbs – 19 yrs
Mohamed Bamba – Texas – C – 7’0″ – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Collin Sexton – Alabama – PG – 6’2″ – 184 lbs – 19 yrs
Mikal Bridges – Villanova – SG/SF – 6’7″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Robert Williams – Texas A&M – C – 6’9″ – 235 lbs – 21 yrs
Miles Bridges – Michigan State – SF/PF – 6’7″ – 230 lbs – 20 yrs
Dzanan Musa – Cedevita – SF – 6′ 9″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky – SG – 6′ 6″ – 181 lbs – 20 yrs
Trae Young – Oklahoma – PG – 6’2″ – 180 lbs – 20 yrs
Maybe Starters, But Surely Rotation Players
Kevin Knox – Kentucky – SF – 6’9″ – 206 lbs – 19 yrs
Troy Brown – Oregon – SG – 6’6″ – 210 lbs – 19 yrs
Khyri Thomas – Creighton – SG – 6′ 3″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Zhaire Smith – Texas Tech – SG – 6′ 5″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Rodions Kurucs – FC Barcelona B – SF – 6′ 9″ – 220 lbs – 20 yrs
Aaron Holiday – UCLA – PG – 6′ 1″ – 185 lbs – 22 yrs
Jacob Evans – Cincinnati – SF – 6′ 6″ – 210 lbs – 21 yrs
De’Anthony Melton – USC – PG – 6’4″ – 190 lbs – 20 yrs
The Swing For The Fence Prospects – AKA Boom-Or-Bust
Lonnie Walker – Miami – SG – 6’4″ – 206 lbs – 20 yrs
Mitchell Robinson – Chalmette HS – C – 7′ 0″ – 223 lbs – 20 yrs
Anfernee Simons – IMG Academy – SG – 6′ 5″ – 177 lbs – 19 yrs
Jontay Porter – Missouri – C – 6′ 11″ – 240 lbs – 19 yrs
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State – PG – 6′ 2″ – 185 lbs – 20 yrs
Bruce Brown – Miami – SG – 6’5″ – 191 lbs – 22 yrs
Isaac Bonga – Skyliners (Germany) – SF/SG – 6’9″ – 203 lbs – 19 yrs
Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky – SG – 6’5″ – 197 lbs – 20 yrs
Players not listed are simply draft prospects that could be drafted, but don’t project clearly into any of these tiers.
If you are looking for a specific player, check out the Basketball Insiders Top 100 Prospects list, this listing is updated weekly.
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