Making the big move. Tobias Harris and the future of the PF spot. BRING SNACKS IS LONG POST.

So the Pistons have traded Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic for Tobias Harris. No picks or nothing else in there. That's it. Before delving into how good the trade itself was later in the post I'm going to start off by just looking at Tobias Harris as a player and how he will fit. Because whether you like the trade or not, it happened, and Tobias Harris is a Piston. So how will he fit?


Season Stats.

Basketball reference page if you prefer that.

Shot chart.


So what's the good news?

There's an awful lot of good news. Tobias Harris is a super talented young player. The TL;DR version is that Harris is essentially a better offensive and a little worse defensive version of Marcus Morris. He comes to that conclusion in some different ways but that is what it amounts to. Harris is a scorer first, and don't worry too much about people saying he has underperformed this season. While he has underperformed a bit I suppose, the reality is that he has been largely doing what he was told to do. His shot attempts went from 14 per game last year to 11 this year and as a result his points have dropped from 17 to about 14. His true shooting percentage has stayed right in line with last year (despite the fall in 3 point %) and he is throwing more assists and passes than ever before in his career. (which is not a big accomplishment due to his lack of passing before but it is something) In fact, Harris' true shooting percentage of 55% is better than every Piston other than Joel Anthony. Straight up, even if his volume is not all that high, his efficiency is. Dude can score. He likes to score in isolation, brutalizing smaller dudes in the post and blowing buy bigger guys, this is where the Marcus Morris comparison is strongest. His best skill is his ability to score in isolation, although he does it a little differently. While Morris (seems to me at least) to be at his best posting up smaller dudes and just shooting over them, Harris has a lot more athleticism to his game and gets to the hoop more. (and draws some fouls when he gets there) And FWIW he is probably better in the midrange than he has been this season.Harris also is an absolute monster in transition, like a PF version of KCP. Gets out and runs, is fast, and a fearless finisher. The best news about him on offense though has to be that athletic driving ability. With Harris the Pistons gain a guy who should be able to tear into the seams that the Jackson/Drummond PnR creates, something the Pistons have not really had this season. Expect to see a lot of defenders scrambling to close out to Harris only to have him blow by for a dunk. Also he can act as another PnR ball handler which is something Ersan obviously could not do. (keep that in mind though because we will be coming back to his playmaking)


How about his defense?

There are some questions here. He has made improvements on defense this season to where he is generally pretty good. He generally plays hard, and really is a good athlete and occasionally will make awesome defensive plays. But generally he has some of the bad tweener problems. He is strong and can bang down low, but is still generally a bit undersized at the 4, and he is generally not quick enough to stick with quick smaller dudes on the perimeter. HOWEVA, he has improved to where he has trended towards having some of the good tweener things where he is big enough to bang down low and quick enough to stick with little guys. Where he ends up falling is yet to be seen, HOWEVA, my money is on him ending up as a good defender. Even people who do not love him as a player admit that this dude works his freaking tail off and is very coachable. SVG is a really stinking good coach. But still, that remains to be seen. Here is the thing to keep in mind though, Ersan Ilyasova was actually a really bad defender, and Tolly is not all that good either. Even in his current state Harris is better than either of them defensively. (although I will always miss Ersan drawing charges left and right) Which means the Pistons improved their defense with this trade. (which is more of a comment on how bad Ersan is defensively but I digress.) He has a lot of defensive potential as a switching machine who can block the shit out of people at the rim, and while I have a lot of faith SVG will pull that potential out of him, it is no guarantee.


What's the bad news?

The Pistons just lost their most consistent shooter this season. And the Pistons have literally 2 guys in their regular rotation who are shooting over 32% from deep this season and one of them is the backup PF who plays 20 minutes a night and does nothing but shoot. That is, um, not ideal. While several of them project to not stay this poor (KCP and Morris especially) but it does still figure to be a bit of an issue. Harris can still shoot from outside with at least some competence though so it will not kill the Pistons as far as spacing goes, but baring one (or please, several of them) improving their shooting, it will be tighter for the Jackson/Drummond PnR. The other issue is that the Pistons now have either Steve Blake or Dinwiddie as the backup PG for now. Which is also not ideal. HOWEVA, the Pistons now have an open roster spot so look for them to add another PG in some way, whether that would be snagging someone in a trade or signing someone else, there is a spot and it will probably be a PG. IF the Pistons do not add another PG though, I sure hope SVG goes with Dinwiddie over Blake. Even if you think Blake is better (which I would disagree with) it is not by much, and Dinwiddie is not on the verge of retirement and could actually be on the team next year. But the main issue I see that could potentially break this in the long term is the shooting. If Marcus Morris really became a 30% shooter from deep in his mid 20s for some reason, and KCP is actually just not a good shooter, and Johnson never gets to be a very good shooter, and Harris is actually a poor shooter. Then the Pistons have a very talented, but crappy shooting, pool of wing players to choose from. Which could in theory give the Pistons similar problems to what the Magic had. The only other issue is that there have been reports that his occasional tendency to be a ball stopper has annoyed teammates in the past, but that has been less of an issue this season.


So what sort of lineups are going to be used?

Obviously I have no insider info so this is just in theory. But the obvious answer is that SVG slots Harris right into the starting lineup at PF and everything else stays the same but with Tolly playing fewer minutes. (because Harris will play more than Ersan) There is also a chance that SVG opts to try and keep some of his precious spacing by starting Tolly and using Harris as a 6th man. But while him being paired with either Johnson or Morris would cause some spacing issues, there is some real potential there. Morris is a skilled isolation scorer and can straight up take over a game in the right matchups. Harris is similar but even better. A lot of teams have one good wing defender, not many have 2 of them. While Harris will be the nominal PF, the reality is that while playing alongside Morris they will be interchangeable as just forwards. The potential for having 2 forwards who can both shoot, (since hopefully they both improve from this season) score in isolation, and create for others out of the PnR or isolation is hugely promising. (and you can swap Johnson in for Morris on that if you want) Even if he starts though, Harris will probably be playing with the bench mob a lot. Once again, Marcus Morris but better. He will be allowed to just do his thing in isolation to his hearts content, and also be the primary ball handler to stir the pot for everyone else. He is actually a really solid ball handler in the PnR. Also, just like Jennings, he loves to run in transition so expect the bench to keep right on running. Also, if KCP never does materialize as a good shooter/half court offensive player. One lineup that REALLY interests me is one of Jackson/Johnson/Morris/Harris/Drummond. That is a potentially monster lineup. But that would be a ways off still. In any case, I would guess Harris might come off the bench for a little bit but will be starting by the end of the season. I do not think Johnson will be starting this season though. And Harris will take over "Peasant General" duties as the leader of the bench mob.


So what does this mean for the Pistons future?

It has officially arrived. The Pistons do not need to become contenders this season or next (and they certainly won't this season) but I (and others) have said that the Pistons are far from a finished product. They had another big piece to add, another move to make. They have made the move. Tobias Harris is not the last piece, but he is the last big one. The Pistons will still have some cap space to go after a good player or two and they still could pull some trades out in the future obviously. But There are no longer grand thoughts of chasing insert big name here because they cannot afford them any more. Essentially this should be viewed as the Pistons signed Harris as a free agent this offseason, they just got early access. All in all, this is both an exciting and scary thought. Because the Pistons had already made the first step towards contention by becoming a good and competitive team. The Pistons could have sat put, let this group grow, and they would be at least a really solid team for the foreseeable future. But that is the easy step. The hard one is taking the step from "solid team" to "championship caliber team." And the Pistons had 1 real shot to try and pick up the missing piece. SVG chose Tobias Harris, and while it is exciting, the reality is that starting next season, we all no longer get to say things like "still a work in progress." The team has to start producing. (Once again, they don't need to be contenders, still hella young and will take some time to gell) So for better or worse, the Pistons have a bunch of young dudes who are under contract for a while. Some of the other pieces will move around, but the top 6 dudes (Jackson/KCP/Morris/Harris/Drummond/Johnson) are probably not going anywhere. They are the guys the Pistons are probably going to ride with. And just to be clear, I'm thrilled with that. Just is still a little scary to see that the time of waiting is about to be over. The rest of this season is the last dress rehearsal, and next year the curtain is raised on the SVG Detroit Pistons.


So how do you think he will do?

I think that Harris and the Pistons are going to thrive (given at least a little time). I wanted the Pistons to go after him this past offseason and all season I have almost viewed him as one that got away. I am super high on him for all the same reasons that I was high on Marcus Morris, except that Harris is a lot better than Morris is. Literally everything anyone has ever said about him is that he is a super hard worker who wants to win and he had made some serious sacrifices for the betterment of the team this season in Orlando. SVG can work with a guy who is a super hard worker. Just think about Marcus Morris for a second, coming in everyone said he was a bad defending, ball hogging, bad shot chucking, locker room problem. And Morris has had literally none of those issues in Detroit. I think he will super charge the Pistons offense into damn near dominance. The Magic do not have an very creative offense, and Harris will be feasting on wide open 3s and clear paths to the hoop. And his effectiveness will make Morris and KCP more effective. I have said that essentially all of the Pistons players are being asked to do a little bit too much. With Harris coming to town that will change, and my theory will be tested. I also think his defense will improve to where he can be right in line with Marcus Morris, not spectacular by any stretch, but rock solid. (although that is the one I feel the least confident in) I think he is the missing piece that will push the Pistons up the next step.


So what do you think of the trade?

SVG is a freaking genius. He opted to create a massive front office to have all sorts of info on every player in the NBA (shouts to Gores for being willing to pay all of those people) and this is the 3rd trade where he is pulling in a really good player for damn near nothing. I actually understand where the Magic are coming from with this (but won't go into it here, just have it be known I don't actually think it is that bad a trade for them.) but this trade is a great one for the Pistons. It is right in line with the acquisition of Reggie Jackson. And I think it will probably have a similar positive effect on the Pistons. The other thing that is nice, is that it kills the one worry I had with SVG so far. I was worried that he put too much value on shooting, that he would rather have an inferior player like Ersan who can shoot than a guy like Harris (or Paul Millsap for instance.) but that is clearly gone. The other thing, SVG has done all of this without giving up a single first round draft pick. Even though the Pistons don't figure to be drafting very high, it is hugely valuable to have your picks. One of the underrated things about the Spurs is that they always have a couple young guys at the back end of the rotation who are on dirt cheap contracts. Provided you draft well (which SVG has so far it seems) it is way better to round out the rotation with young dudes on rookie contracts than digging through veteran scrap piles to find someone willing to take a small contract. So while it may not be highway robbery (because once again, I actually understand where the Magic are coming from) it is like finding someone who really needs to sell a nice car and so they have to sell it cheap. It may not hurt them to sell it because they have a few others that they like and want to buy another one that is better, but that does not make it less awesome for you. (Thats how I got my car lol) As long as Steve Blake is not the backup PG the rest of the season, SVG is freaking awesome. Also, if he keeps this up, more teams will be copying the Pistons layout of the big front office. (Which by the way, if anyone is looking for someone to watch lots of NBA games I know a guy who likes to watch games and make comments on individual players lol) Regardless, I freaking love this trade. It is not a for sure home run, but it is close. And also, think about this. SVG turned Caron Butler, Kyle Singler, DJ Augustine, 2 2nd round picks, and a probably about to leave Brandon Jennings into Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, and Tobias Harris. Other than Jodie Meeks, (and kind of Steve Blake) SVG has not made a bad move.


Anything else?

Yeah actually. Tobias Harris is literally one of the best people in the NBA. Like seriously, look up this guy. He is an awesome person. Also, Thank you Brandon Jennings. You were the main guy in the first stretch the Pistons were fun again in a long time. Other guys are going to keep it going but I hope you take some pride in knowing that you started this turnaround. Also, did I mention that Tobias Harris is 23?


What do you think? Think he is the missing piece? Do you like the trade? What lineups do you want to see? Let me know! We all get smarter!

Opponent Scouting: Washington Bullets. 24-28.

Season So Far Recap/Notes: All Star Break. Ersan Ilyasova.