There is no doubt that the Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the more talented teams in recent years. Joel Embiid won the 2022-23 MVP award, becoming the first player in franchise history to receive such a distinction since Allen Iverson in 2001. Plus, Tyrese Maxey's rise to stardom has been nothing short of spectacular. Amid all the praise Embiid and Maxey have received, one of the unsung heroes of the Sixers' success has been Tobias Harris, a player who was oftentimes the scapegoat whenever things went wrong in Philadelphia.

After becoming a focal point at the power forward position for the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers due to his ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, especially as a three-point shooter, Harris found himself involved in a major trade deadline deal during the 2018-19 season that involved the Sixers. He then decided to sign a five-year, $180 million near-max contract in 2019 after going from the Clippers to the 76ers.

As we evaluate this trade from five years ago, many tend to overlook the positive impact Harris made in Philadelphia. Although the Sixers may not have made a deep postseason run, the veteran forward is not the one to blame for his team's struggles. Between all of the injury concerns the Sixers have battled and the lack of stability in terms of roster construction and coaching, Harris was underutilized.

It's that simple.

Now that it appears as if Harris' time with the 76ers has come to an end, which is odd considering that he has proven to be one of the better power forwards in the league when you dive into the numbers. With the 76ers, Harris averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 36.9 percent from three-point range. What is impressive is that over his full five years with the team, Harris only missed 40 total games.

On top of his durability, Harris has been available for the 76ers, as he ranks inside the top 10 in games played and total minutes over the last five seasons. In addition, he ranked second in distance traveled per game during the 2023-24 season, according to Second Spectrum.

Just because his shots were not falling at times doesn't mean that Harris isn't an efficient and effective player. The fact of the matter is that with the 76ers, he was relegated from being a focal point to being a role player that the team wanted in the corner on offense. Even though he is an efficient three-point shooter, Harris has always been known for being an offensive threat when he can attack open lanes en route to getting to the rim. Next to Maxey and Embiid, Harris was never allowed to be anything more than a catch-and-shoot option.

The NBA is a league where teams evaluate players based on how they can perform right now, not how they have played years before. Harris is a proven leader who will find himself entering free agency as one of the best talents available. This is especially true when you consider the fact that numerous stars and players will be agreeing to terms with their current teams as part of the league's new negotiation period rules. While things may not have worked out in Philadelphia, Harris can still positively impact any team in the NBA. If you need any proof of this, just dive into the numbers.

Advanced stats support Harris

New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) brings the ball up court against Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) during the fourth quarter of game 5 of the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Statistics matter in the NBA. General fans always want to know who the leading scorers, rebounders, and efficient shooters are. What NBA teams want to know is how players can impact winning beyond just scoring and rebounding. This is especially true in free agency regarding a player like Harris.

Over his first two full seasons with the Sixers (2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons), Harris averaged 19.6 and 19.5 points per game. He did so with usage rates of 23.9 percent each season. One can easily point to Harris' numbers and production not being the same on the offensive side of the floor over his last few seasons, but just look at how his usage rate changed. Not only did Harris' minutes and shot attempts fall, but his usage rate dropped from 23.9 percent during the 2020-21 season to 21.7 percent. It then fell to just 18.2 percent during the 2021-22 season.

When Harris had the ball in his hands and was allowed to be the primary playmaker for the 76ers offensively, he was a very efficient player and among the best-scoring forwards in the league. His value and opportunities will obviously decline with the rise of Embiid and Maxey, but the 76ers simply stopped turning to Harris despite the veteran's continued leadership on and off the court.

Outside of usage, teams always want to know how players stack up against one another. In free agency, Harris is going to be compared to the likes of Pascal Siakam, Paul George, OG Anunoby, and DeMar DeRozan. Interestingly enough, Harris has an edge over every single one of these players, three of which are All-Star talents.

Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Harris and George have played against one another five different times, with the 76ers posting a 3-2 record in these matchups against the Los Angeles Clippers. Head-to-head, Harris has averaged 20.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, compared to George's 19.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. All in all, these are basically the same numbers. However, Harris does have an edge over George when it comes to how efficient he has been in these matchups.

Against George since 2021, Harris has shot 66.7 percent on two-point shots, 45.0 percent on three-point shots, and has posted a 67.8 percent true shooting percentage. On the opposite side, George has shot only 44.4 percent against Harris on two-point shots, 40.0 percent on three-point shots, and has posted a 56.3 true shooting percentage. Based on the advanced head-to-head stats, Harris has been better than George over the last few seasons when it comes to their one-on-one matchups.

Let's go ahead and do the same thing now for Harris when compared to Siakam. These two met three total times during the 2023-24 season when Siakam was still with the Toronto Raptors, and the 76ers won all three games. In said games, Harris averaged 23.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game against Siakam. The Raptors star averaged just 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 turnovers per game.

Isn't it a coincidence that Harris, who is a power forward, recorded 2.0 steals per game in matchups against Siakam, who is also a power forward and turned the ball over 2.0 times per game against Harris?

A similar trend exists when you also compare Harris to Anunoby. Since the start of the 2021-22 season, Harris has played against Anunoby 11 different times, a larger sample size than George and Siakam. Once again, Harris has dominated these meetings, averaging 16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 37.7 percent from three-point range. Anunoby averaged only 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.6 turnovers per game against Harris while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 36.5 percent from three-point range.

In all three scenarios outlined involving George, Siakam, and Anunoby, Harris' box plus/minus was higher than all of his counterparts. Harris was +2.5 versus -1.0 for George. The 76ers forward was +4.4 vs. Siakam, while his counterpart was -1.2 in these matchups. Finally, Harris was +2.1 against Anunoby, while the versatile two-way wing was only +0.2 in said games.

Not only has Harris dominated head-to-head matchups against some of the best at his position, but he's done so on both ends of the floor. Harris can score and defend at a high level, which is why he should be considered a top option in free agency by any team needing an experienced leader who can contribute to winning.

Possible free agent suitors for Tobias Harris

Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) drives to the basket against the Dallas Mavericks during the first half at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Harris is the type of player who makes winning plays for his team. Whether it is making the extra pass on offense or grabbing a 50-50 rebound, he has been this type of player his whole 13-year career in the NBA. Now set to hit free agency and pursue other opportunities outside of the 76ers, the key questions for Harris revolve around what opportunities will be available on the open market and what kind of price he will demand.

When evaluating which players will be available in free agency, there are a good number of names that can be crossed off the list. Pascal Siakam and Malik Monk are not going anywhere after negotiating new deals with their current teams. LeBron James is not expected to leave the Los Angeles Lakers. James Harden is more than likely staying with the Los Angeles Clippers. Not to mention, the belief around the league is that the New York Knicks will do everything they can to keep OG Anunoby on a new long-term contract.

The question marks in free agency lie with Paul George, Klay Thompson, and DeMar DeRozan. Despite all three players receiving interest from rival teams, there is a very real scenario in which these three stars return to their current organizations in free agency. In doing so, this would open up a path to Harris being the best free agent on the market in terms of value and production.

Given how comparable he is to players like Siakam, George, and Anunoby in terms of his overall numbers, Harris' value should be similar to his counterparts. However, teams interested in his services will look to sign Harris to a smaller contract. The five-year, $180 million contract he recently finished with the 76ers had an annual average value of $36 million per season. Perhaps that AAV could decline slightly, but Harris is still among the best power forwards in the league. That is why there will be teams interested in potentially signing him.

Besides the 76ers, the Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Orlando Magic will have access to at least $30 million in cap space this offseason. Of this group, the Pistons and Jazz have the most to spend, at approximately $64.4 million and $38.4 million, respectively. This would be more than enough for either team to pursue Harris as an unrestricted free agent.

Harris, who spent the entire 2016-17 season and parts of the 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons with the Pistons, would be an ideal addition for new President of Basketball Operations Trajan Langdon. The veteran's two-way abilities and experience instantly provide benefits to a young team that is once again searching for a new head coach. In regards to the Jazz, Harris would help create a one-two punch alongside forward Lauri Markkanen. It is no secret around the league that Utah is going to make some sort of big splash in the offseason to improve their immediate playoff outlook.

The Thunder, Spurs, and Hornets are three other interesting teams with cap space this offseason. After recently trading for Alex Caruso, Thunder executive Sam Presti has shown that he is willing to do what it takes to capitalize on his young team's success. Bringing in Gordon Hayward at the trade deadline didn't work out this past season, but Harris' ability to be a secondary playmaker and primary scoring option next to a young guard like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is certainly worth discussing.

Like the Thunder, the Spurs are a young team with potential for immediate growth. The main reason for this is because of Victor Wembanyama. The Spurs are going to make moves to set themselves up for success with Wemby, and Harris' leadership would be extremely valuable for Gregg Popovich's team.

Although a return to the 76ers seems highly unlikely, Harris could potentially be utilized in a sign-and-trade deal. Brandon Ingram is a player the New Orleans Pelicans are expected to show interest in trading this offseason, so could Harris wind up finding himself involved in a deal that brings Ingram to Philadelphia?

The same can be said about the Dallas Mavericks, who are coming off of a run to the NBA Finals. The one thing Dallas needs is offensive production and players who can create for themselves on the wing in the forward positions next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Harris fits this description perfectly, and the Mavs could get creative in terms of a trade package for Harris, seeing as Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, and Dwight Powell all have contracts the team can move for value. If Dallas is serious about wanting to pursue Harris, they can make this happen rather quickly.

The bottom line is that Harris is still seen as a productive player on the open market. He will undoubtedly have suitors once free agency begins, and the next chapter of his career has a chance to be his best. Since Harris is still in his prime, any team that looks to sign him will be getting a player that instantly improves their immediate playoff outlook.

All the talk in free agency is centered on George and Thompson, but Harris may just be the most valuable player available due to his leadership and proven production. Time will tell what the future holds for the 31-year-old forward.