Why We Shouldn’t Be Bothered by Tobias Harris’ Advanced Stat Line

Tobias Harris has made a lot of Magic fans get over J.J. Redick very quickly. In just his first 27 games with Orlando, he has given us something to be excited about going into next year. Now we have the whole summer to sit and wonder: do we have potential star, a strong rotation player, or an inefficient chucker? Or at least, some are.

Many have pointed out that despite the fact that Harris had monster statistical nights in a Magic uniform, a closer look at his advanced statistics reveal that he really didn't improve much from his days in Milwaukee; that all he was really getting was more playing time and delivered essentially the same per-minute results, which weren't necessarily earth-shattering.

First of all, let's look at those per-36 minute stats along with PER and WS per48:

2011-2012 - 15.6 Pts/7.6 Rebs/2.3 TOs/26% 3P/46.7% FG/14.2 PER/.087 WS per 48


MIL - 15.1 Pts/6.3 Rebs/2 TOs/33% 3P/46.1% FG/13 PER/.080 WS per 48

ORL - 17.3 Pts/8.5 Rebs/1.8 TOs/31% 3P/45.3% FG/17 PER/.092 WS per 48

Yes, his stats in Orlando aren't much better than they were in Milwaukee, and yes, his shooting % dipped slightly; and yes, his PER and WS/48 are good but still kind of average. All of which are being used, by some, as an indictment of his play with the Magic and characterizing it as merely a smokescreen of inefficiency fueled by more minutes and more shots.

But this seems totally backwards to me.

Let's look at those stats again from just his time in Milwaukee:

2011-2012 - 15.6 Pts/7.6 Rebs/2.3 TOs/26% 3P/46.7% FG/14.2 PER/.087 WS per 48

2012-2013 - 15.1 Pts/6.3 Rebs/2 TOs/33% 3P/46.1% FG/13 PER/.080 WS per 48

If I showed these stats to you blindly and didn't give any description of the player other than he was a 6'8'' forward, I imagine you would be only mildly impressed. But then the first question you ask would probably change your mind: "How old is he?"

"......he's 20?!"

The fact of the matter is, all these statistics really show is that HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYING MORE IN MILWAUKEE. Many of the best games that Harris produced as a Buck were games where he was actually given the minutes to produce. When you have a rookie/sophomore who is putting up these kinds of statistics, the smart money says you want to play this guy or at least keep developing him. Now I have already dumped on the Bucks in my last post, so I will kind of back them up a little this time and say that they had both good and bad reasons for not playing Harris more often.

First, the Bucks were a team trying to make the playoffs, perhaps even make a little noise as they had when Andrew Bogut was still wearing Green and Red. They couldn't always afford to let Harris work out his growing pains on the court, (though it's still a little baffling that they couldn't put up with Harris' mistakes but could stomach aaaaall those bad fadeaways by Ellis and Jennings). Secondly, they have a very solid veteran SF in Ersan Ilyasova who was putting up just a little bit better Per-36 statistics, so you have to play the veteran. However, what you really lose with the Scott Skiles Zero-Tolerance Policy for Turnovers Program is the ability for a young, promising player to play with any kind of comfort level thus hindering both his development and his production on the court. Again, this is where your advanced statisticians should have been showing you the very statistics in question as proof that this young guy can play.

Now, let's answer the question of why some of his statistics actually dipped slightly once he began playing for the Magic. Consider these factors: When going from the Bucks to the Magic, Tobias Harris was asked to play more than 3 times as many minutes, (though he earned them), his role changed from a bench contributor to being a key scorer in the starting lineup, was asked to learn a new system, play a new position, figure out a new coach whilst not having any kind of training camp and only a handful of practices in the last third of the regular season, and oh yeah, did I mention he's 20?!?!


...His FG percentage dipped from 46.1% to 45.3%, his 3-point percentage from 33% to 31%, his TrueShooting percentage from 53.8% to 52.4%.

Consider me not concerned. In fact, describing this small dip as "understandable" is understating the matter heavily. Also note another statistic that dipped: Turnovers. Despite his minutes increasing by 24 per game and his Usage% rising from 19.4 to 23.1, his turnovers per-36 went down, if ever so slightly from 2 to 1.8. When a player is given the freedom to just play and isn't constantly looking toward the scorer's table, waiting to see when he gets benched; most of the time, he is going to make better plays. This was a key difference between Harris' experiences with the Bucks and Magic.

But why were Harris' PER and WS/48 so average when it felt like he was putting up beastly stat lines? This goes back to a key point of mine, and I really can't emphasize this enough: HE IS 20 YEARS OLD. Young players are going to play inconsistently. It's what they do. While we remember Harris putting up 30 and 19 against the Bucks, we might forget stinkers like he had against Indiana where he put up 6 and 9, while shooting 23% from the field. That inconsistency is going to balance out on the stat sheet. I encourage you to look at the game logs of great forwards in their rookie year, (i.e LeBron, Carmelo etc.), you will notice they are filled with ups and downs. Just to put Tobias' numbers into perspective, here is a look at those players' PER and WS/48 from their rookie seasons compared with Harris' time with the Magic:

Tobias Harris - 17 PER, .092 WS/48

LeBron James - 18.3 PER, .078 WS/48

Carmelo Anthony - 17.6 PER, .098 WS/48

...Am I shooting too high with those comparisons? Fine. How about these:

Tobias Harris - 17 PER, .092 WS/48

Shawn Marion - 17.1 PER, .158 WS/48

Lamar Odom - 16.8 PER, .055 WS/48

Josh Smith - 15.8 PER, .055 WS/48

The point is, if you stack his advanced stats with other above-average and star players, they are fairly similar. Of course, we have to ask if it is fair to compare Harris' stats with rookie stats, given that Harris is a second year player. Well, considering his rookie year was a squished lockout-scheduled season with little training camp and VERY little practice time, coupled with the fact that I do believe his growth was stunted in Milwaukee, (and I'd say David Thorpe pretty much backs me up in this video), I think it's really only fair to compare his statistics while on a team that believed in his talents enough to give him the opportunity to play, just as most of these other players got in their rookie years.

Now I know, someone is going to call me on the sample size (27 games)...and you're not wrong when you say that it is small. And I know that along with the optimism of fan-hood, comes that small voice in the back of our heads that says, "this could still go wrong." But don't get so lost in comparing his numbers that you don't stop and look at how good they are; especially for a player in this stage of his development, (having turned 21 just 2 weeks ago). Considering the fact that player development is what the Magic will be keying on in the coming years, there is really no reason to feel anything but optimism about Tobias Harris' future with the Magic.

And the numbers back that up.

This FanPost was made by a member of the Orlando Pinstriped Post community, and is to be treated as the opinions and views of its author, not that of the blogger or blog community as a whole.

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