Celtics Insider

Blakely: Is Tobias Harris a real threat to Celtics?

Celtics Insider
USA Today

For the Boston Celtics, there’s no escaping the wrath coming their way from Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, who is arguably the best center in the NBA.

And in their upcoming playoff series against the Sixers, Embiid is a lock to be the center of the Celtics’ defensive attention. Then there’s former Celtic Al Horford, who will have an expanded role for the Sixers with Ben Simmons (knee surgery) out for the entire series

But what about Tobias Harris? Where does he register in on the Celtics’ fear-o-meter?

If Boston plans to make quick work of Philly as many expect, taking Harris and his potential impact seriously is an absolute must for Boston. 

The 6-foot-8 Harris was among the keys to Philly winning three of the four regular season matches with Boston, as he averaged a near double-double of 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds to go along with 3.8 assists. 

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But what should be most concerning to the Celtics is what Harris does from 3-point range. This season, he shot 40 percent from 3-point range in the four games against Boston. 

And since entering the bubble, Philadelphia has been among the NBA's most potent teams from 3-point range with Harris leading that charge. In Orlando, Harris’ 3-point shooting improved to 41.2 percent while his scoring average improved to 21.7.

However, the bigger concern for Harris — and truthfully for the entire Sixers squad — is their defense. For the season, Harris has a defensive rating of 107.2. But in the bubble, Harris’ defense has taken a slight dip to 112.3.


And when you look at their team as a whole, there’s no doubt the absence of Ben Simmons will impact them the most at the defensive end of the floor.

In the bubble, their defensive rating of 114.8 ranks 17th out of 22 teams. That's a far cry from the regular season, when Philly's defense rating (108.4) ranked eighth in the league.

The defensive shortcomings by no means are a direct reflection of anything Harris has done or not done specifically. But stout play defensively has never been a strength of his game. His ability to score in a multitude of ways from multiple positions is the value that he brings to the floor for the Sixers. 

With Simmons out, the need for shooting will be even greater for the Sixers. 

The one player who's likely to benefit most from this is Harris, a player that the Celtics have to be concerned about not letting get into a rhythm shooting the ball. Because as talented a roster as the Celtics may have, Philly has some players who can cause problems and make this first-round series tougher — a lot tougher — than it should be. 

And among those problem players that the Celtics will have to deal with? Yes, Tobias Harris is one of those dudes for sure.