As the 2013/14 season draws to a close one of Orlando Magic's priorities is to find a role that best suits Tobias Harris. The third-year combo forward has seen his productivity slip in his first full season with Orlando, posting per-game averages of 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists on 44.2 percent shooting. Coach Jacque Vaughn has confidence that Harris will return to form, but he's still trying to suss out how to play to Harris' strengths.
"The interesting part about Tobias is which unit is he best with? First unit? Second unit?" Vaughn said at a Magic practice before the team embarked on its current roadtrip. "I talked about that, still trying to find where he's most efficient at. I think we're still in the process of feeling that out. We're healthy now, but can he get looks throughout the course of the game with certain personnel? That's still to be determined, I think."
In 2013, Harris put up great numbers after Orlando acquired him from the Milwaukee Bucks in part because injuries to Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, and Jameer Nelson thrust him into a featured offensive role. With those three players healthy for much of the 2013/14 campaign, Harris has taken on a reduced role.
"I think at that time [of the trade], he probably was leading us in shot attempts," said Vaughn. "I think as a team, as a whole right now, that's not gonna be the case for him on a nightly basis." Vaughn's right: in his first half-season in pinstripes, Harris averaged 16.5 shooting possessions--a term which refers to shot attempts and weighted free-throw tries--per game to lead the Magic. In the 2013/14 season, however, that number has dipped to 13.7, trailing Afflalo (16.8) and rookie guard Victor Oladipo (13.8).
Orlando's coach made those remarks before his club reached a buyout with Davis, its starting power forward. Davis' absence should open more playing time at that position, and more offensive opportunities in general, for the Long Island native.
Though Harris acknowledges the team's personnel differs from the one it had when he arrived, he's not sweating his role. "I'm a basketball player," he said. "I go out there, I play whatever role I have to play, and I'm gonna play as hard as I can, night-in and night-out. Just do what I can to help my team." He wants to play "an overall game" no matter his position or with whom he shares the floor.
For now, Vaughn will continue to tinker with the Magic's lineups in order to maximize Harris' considerable talent. Once Orlando has a better idea of the Tennessee product's potential and skill set, it can begin considering how to value him financially: Harris will be eligible for a contract extension once the season ends, though the Magic can delay that process by letting him hit restricted free agency in the summer of 2015. Harris won't let the possibility of a big payday faze him.
"When that time comes, then it'll be something to talk about," he said. "But for now, it's just developing and growing with this group."