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2016 Detroit Pistons Preview: Tobias Harris represents Pistons’ fulcrum

More than any other player on the roster, Harris could swing the season for the Pistons.

Art by Christopher Daniels

A fulcrum is that point between a lever where it pivots. It’s about as perfect of an analogy for Harris that you could ask for.

The Pistons were firmly in the playoff conversation at the trade deadline, playing .500 basketball for the first time in seven seasons.

But .500 is average. Average is better than what they had been, but they still needed more to be thoroughly interesting. Someone to help with their clunky offense that was last in the league in assist percentage and second to last in true shooting percentage. A secondary ball handler on the perimeter.

That player surprisingly turned out to be Tobias Harris. And it only took a couple of expiring contracts to get the deal done.

In 27 games with Harris, the Pistons went 17-11.

A 27-27 record before acquiring Harris. 17-11 after. So we’ve already had a glimpse of Harris as a fulcrum once, as the player that lifted them into the playoffs.

Now as the Pistons look to take the next step and move further up the pack in the East, Harris once again represents the player to help them climb the ladder.


In addition to being the piece that moves the Pistons up in the rankings, the fulcrum description also works in Harris’ role with the roster. With the team’s offense built around the Andre Drummond-Reggie Jackson (or Ish Smith, while Jackson is out to start the season), Harris represents a versatile piece in the middle. He can spot up. He can put the ball on the floor. He can facilitate as a secondary pick and roll threat. He can post up a mismatch.

Check out Harris’ pie chart for how his possessions varied last season:

Outside of the spot ups, which in a Drummond-Jackson driven offense makes sense to be the biggest piece, those slices are mighty even.

The most wild thing about it though is that he’s effective at all of those different areas. During his time in Detroit, he was among the 84th percentile in spot up chances last season. He was among the 76th percentile in the league in transition opportunities. The 96th percentile in post ups. The 78th percentile as a pick and roll ball handler.

Harris pulls off that versatility so naturally that it might not even cross your mind that he could challenge Draymond Green for the title of the most versatile power forward in the league.


With Reggie Jackson out to start the season, the Pistons stand to lean on Harris even more than usual. His usage percentage has never surpassed a relatively modest 22.5 percent and was just 20 percent during his time in Detroit.

Harris will have the best opportunity of his career so far to raise eyebrows around the league. If he makes the most of that chance, he could stand some attention for All Star Game consideration.

For such a young player, you’ve been able to set your watch to Harris’ production. About 17 points per 36 minutes, 7 rebounds, 2 assists. His numbers have fluctuated some with playing time, but his per minute production has been remarkably consistent.

He’s never really filled the alpha scorer role for his teams. He’s only led his team in scoring once, in 2012-13 in Orlando. So it will be something of a new look for Harris in the early going. But with his well-rounded game, look for Harris to thrive.

Harris has been in the league five years now and is on his third team, so it’s easy to forget that he’s still just 24 years old. This season Harris could prove to be the biggest coup of the Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower era yet.


18 points per game, 46/36/83 shooting line, 8 rebounds, 3 assists