Playing as a small forward in Brett Brown’s system can be somewhat uneventful.

If Ben Simmons wasn’t running the floor, you’d start in the far corner with the first actions bringing Joel Embiid and JJ Redick to the ball. You’d get a pin down screen or kick out pass at some point, but the role was a prototypical three and D type of assignment while other ball-dominant players were getting a majority of the usage.

That had a negative effect on Tobias Harris, who just sort of floated around and tried to get himself involved where possible. He wasn’t initiating pick and roll the same way he was in Los Angeles, where he put up the career numbers that earned him a high-profile trade in the first place. And with Al Horford’s addition in 2019, combined with the late-stage Simmons power forward experiment, Harris spent large portions of the season stuck at the three and playing in a way that didn’t really match his skill set.

The good thing is that Doc Rivers intends to use Harris the same way he did in Los Angeles, according to President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey, who said this on Anthony Gargano’s show Monday:

“I’ll just yield to Elton and Doc. Doc has coached him and Elton knows him obviously better than me. But if you look, when he’s played the role that Doc is going to have him play, or at least is planning to have him play – sort of a mix of four and three – he’s been unbelievable. I yield to them. You don’t know a player until you coach them or see them every day, but I know Tobias has all of the aspects that we need, with shooting being a big one. And he’s an all-around solid player. We’re excited for the role Doc is going to give him.”

Tobias was so much more of a pick and roll player in Los Angeles. You know this. He was give ample opportunity to initiate and in those 55 games with the Clips compiled these pick and roll ball handler numbers:

  • Points per possession: 0.99 (tied with Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie)
  • frequency: 26.6%
  • percentile: 86.9
  • field goal percentage: 49.3 (better than Lillard and Harden)


In Philly this past season those numbers dropped, respectively, to 0.85, 17.6%, 53.4, and 40%. Huge drop, totally different game playing for a coach with a motion offense that ran very little pick and roll.

He wasn’t doing a lot of stuff like this for Brett:

One of Harris’ best skills is attacking mismatches and backing down smaller players, which you did see a lot of last season. In other cases, he’s quick enough to get by opposing fours and other bigs who find themselves out on the perimeter, so he’s really a quality hybrid 3/4 in a system that makes sense.

The thing about putting the ball in his hands, however, is that a lot of those juicy matchups are generated organically based off PNR screening or ball handling switches, like this:

More of what Tobias did well in Philly under Brett was attack closeouts or iso his way towards the basket based on the fact that the Sixers were ginormous and simply towered over everybody else. That was one of the perks of being 6’9″ but playing the three.

So this is a good sign moving forward, the Doc Rivers redux. The question is whether there’s going to be enough usage to go around, which we’ll find out.