Ever since the Orlando Magic acquired Tobias Harris from the Milwaukee Bucks in last season’s trade deadline, I was telling everybody within five feet of me that Harris was going to be a special player in the NBA.
Everybody I told this to laughed at me, saying that Harris was just a throw-in to make the deal with the Bucks work. They told me he still had a steep learning curve ahead of him and that it would take a few years for Harris to reach his full potential.
I have one thing to say to those people: who’s laughing now?
Harris has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable two years for the Magic. Harris is one of those rare gifted players that is big enough and bulky enough to post up opposing forwards while still being freakishly athletic enough to drive by and throw down a thunderous dunk over a 7-footer. To top it all off, he has a mid-range game that Dwight Howard can only dream of owning.
Harris displayed every aspect of his game on Friday night against the Washington Wizards. He made beautiful passes, drove past defenders, and battled for the ball under the rim against Washington’s big men.
So it miffs me that Orlando’s coach Jacque Vaughn feels that it is necessary to make Harris the sixth man off the bench. Granted, Orlando’s bench is still quite thin and lacking the offensive firepower needed, but Harris is the type of player that is born to be a starter, not a sixth man.
The case for Harris to start is right there on the court. Orlando’s offensive struggles are on full display when Harris is not on the court. Maurice Harkless, the man holding down Harris’s rightful small forward spot, is a solid player and the best one-on-one ball defender that Orlando possesses. But his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired at this point, and opposing teams exploit this weakness — especially the Washington Wizards.
Harris brings an energy and flair that is sorely lacking among the rest of the starting lineup. Pair up Harris with Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo and a healthy Nikola Vucevic, and you have yourself a starting lineup that can go toe-to-toe with the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Harris has made the case that he needs to be a starter in order for the Magic to be successful in the future, and the role Vaughn assigns to him next season will be critical as to whether or not the Magic will continue pilling on lottery picks, or making some noise in an Eastern Conference that figures to be weak again next year.
Harris is not a sixth man, he is a starter. Do the right thing next year, Vaughn.