Heading into restricted free agency, Tobias Harris was a divisive player. Some saw a dynamic, all-around forward who was young and whose game would grow. Others saw an inefficient, ball-stopping No. 1 scorer on an underachieving team.
Some supporters said he played like a young Josh Smith. Many detractors said he, well, played like a young Josh Smith. And when the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward arrived in Detroit sporting an ever-present headband, Harris even, chillingly for many Pistons fans, looked like Josh Smith.
His play and effect on the team, however, has recalled another former Piston -- Rasheed Wallace.
In the Pistons 102-96 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, Harris filled up the stat sheet -- 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting, 5-for-5 from the free-throw line, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal. Sounds a lot like vintage Smith.
The Mavericks were a hungry team looking to end a losing skid, and they were dynamic at the offensive end and pesky on the defensive end. But every time the Mavs punched, the Pistons punched back, and often that was because Harris would drive the lane, absorb contact and sink the shot. Or get a key rebound. Or sink a 3-pointer when the momentum was shifting.
Prior to joining the Pistons, here were Harris' career numbers: 12.9 PPG on .463/.318/.790 shooting to go with 5.8 RPG. Before joining the Pistons, here were Smith's career numbers: 15.3 PPG on .465/.283/.650 shooting to go with eight rebounds per game.
Just as importantly, though, is how seamlessly Harris fit in with his team and how he's energized them on both sides of the floor. Sounds a lot like 2003-04 Sheed.
Harris has been a different story. The Pistons lost the first two games after trading for Harris, both of which he came off the bench. Since then, they have won six of eight. That is very similar to what happened when the Pistons traded for Rasheed Wallace back in 2003-04.
Granted, there is a sizeable difference in degrees. The Pistons were a top-tier team turned into title winners thanks to Wallace. The Pistons are a perennial lottery team looking to break a long playoff drought.
After the Pistons traded for Rasheed, they lost the first two games. After those losses, the Pistons would win seven of their next eight.
However, Harris has been arguably better in his first 10 games with Detroit than Rasheed. In Sheed's first 10 games, he had a stat line of: 14.2 PPG on .387/.257/.742 shooting with 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and two blocks per game. In Harris's first 10: 17.1 PPG on .512/.412/.806 shooting with 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
But despite the individual stat lines, you can see what Harris has done to the team is similar to what Rasheed did for the Pistons back then. The Pistons would go 20-6 the rest of the way, losing no more than two games in a row, after trading for Sheed. At present, the Pistons are 6-4 since trading for Harris and they have 18 more games to go.
But a next step is a next step, and whether you're fighting for a title or simply fighting for relevance, finding a player that allows you to take that step is important.
The Pistons, thanks to the dynamic play and strong locker room presence of Harris look poised to take that next step. He might not bring the swagger (or championship belt) of Rasheed Wallace, but Harris allows them to take the next step. First comes the playoffs, then a productive offseason, then ....