Tobias Harris: Is He Any Good?

Tobias Harris, when he shoots the ball well, is a massive addition to a Detroit Pistons offense that is perpetually in dire need of the guys who make four-out basketball possible. Andre Drummond cannot win games by himself, and spacing the floor is how his dominance down low is able to be such a huge factor in Detroit’s wins.

But on the other hand, when Harris shoots the ball poorly, he’s like Josh Smith out there; a guy who can go 4-for-13, as Harris did against Toronto in a 96-91 loss on Jan. 17, puts your team at a grave disadvantage by removing a factor for the defense to consider.

So let’s take a look at a question not simply of “is Tobias Harris a good shooter?” (.453/.424/.837 says yes, yes he is), but let’s try this question from a different angle:

Does Harris have so many bad games that they cancel out his ability to contribute overall?

After all, that’s what makes shooters dangerous; when they shoot you out of games and can’t get their teammates involved to cover for their bad nights. Like, say, Josh Smith.

The Game Logs

Since we just defined 4-of-13 as bad enough to shoot his team out of the game in a game where Harris had 12 points, let’s define a “bad game” for our purposes as follows:

A bad game is one in which a player who takes at least ten shots has more field goal attempts than points. This mitigates games where a player misses a lot of shots but gets hot from the three-point arc, or where those misses are the ones the ref didn’t call in a game where plenty of other misses resulted in two free throws.

And since we’re talking team impact, let’s consider the Pistons’ record in those bad games for Harris.

Harris has 11 games in 43 total games for Detroit so far this season in which he’s met the criteria for a bad game, and I’m going to give him a dishonorable mention for the game against Denver where he had two points on 0-of-7 shooting from the field, because if you miss all your shots…

In those 12 games, Detroit is 4-8. So, put another way, they’re 18-13 when Harris doesn’t stink out the joint.

That’s a winning percentage swing over 82 games between 27-55 and 48-34.

To Take Over A Game…Or Not

The Celtics are notable in that they play their best when Kyrie Irving takes fewer than 20 shots; Boston is 20-3 in such games, while they’re 13-7 when Irving takes 20 shots or more (the remaining 1-1 on the C’s record is games where Irving was inactive.)

Put another way, Irving is a guy who must be reined in, the bane of any volume scorer (and why Irving is an overrated player who never won anything in Cleveland when he was the main scoring option before LeBron James showed up.)

If Harris is another guy who kills you as a volume shooter, we’d expect a similar decline in Detroit’s record proportional to the number of shots Harris takes.

Harris has only shot the ball 20 or more times twice, both Detroit wins. Let’s instead, like Irving, set the bar at the median; for Harris, that’s 15 field goal attempts.

Detroit is 10-12 when Harris takes 14 shots or fewer. They’re 12-9 when he shoots 15 or more.

And if we raise the bar to the nine games Harris shot 17 or more, Detroit is 6-3.

So if he’s shooting them out of games, he’s taking a funny way toward doing it, making them worse by shooting less.


Which is all we need to know. Tobias Harris, when he is Detroit’s prime scoring option, may occasionally give a game away by stinking out the joint.

But it is a lot better than the alternative, which is limiting his shot attempts to force him to play more efficiently.

The easy numbers survive the scrutiny of the deep dive and pass with flying colors, a Freudian cigar of sorts.

Harris should absolutely shoot the ball more, and Detroit is doomed if he doesn’t. The question of is Tobias Harris good is emphatically Confirmed.