So, let’s have that discussion …
Tobias Harris lit the Nets up for 27 points and eight rebounds on 11-of-17 shooting in a 127-119 Barclays Center victory on Saturday.
More notably, he’s having a defining season, whose numbers are career-highs across the board of over 20 points and nearly nine rebounds per game on over 50% shooting and about 42% from three.
Most notably, the 26-year-old Long Island native is an unrestricted free agent in eight months, where the Nets will be among NBA teams with the most cap space, and an expected huge void at the four.
Harris obviously won’t say what his plans are beyond this season, but the local ties to the Nets, and even fellow Long Islander Kenny Atkinson, are strong.
“It’s always good to play in front of family and friends. It’s more special to just come out here and get a victory, especially versus a team that’s playing some great basketball pretty much all game,” Harris said. “You’ve got to give them credit — they ran their stuff, they played hard, they played well.”
Indeed, Harris had some family members in attendance on Saturday night, and also hosted a group of local kids he mentors.
The ties go deeper than that for Harris, a Dix Hills native and Atkinson from Northport, a mere eight miles apart.
One of Atkinson’s many brothers coached Harris’ youngest brother Terry. Harris didn’t remember which of the eight, but Steve was the most recent Half Hollow Hills West head coach, and a prior assistant at the same school. All eight of Atkinson’s brothers played and coached on the Island, and Harris’ brothers Terry and Tyler were standouts at Hills West.
Would Tobias return near home to play?
“I’m just focused on the team that I put a jersey on every single night for,” he said prior to playing the Nets. “I think it wouldn’t be fair if I had my mind somewhere else at this time. I’m just focused on helping this team and let’s see how far we can go.”
He also adds that he wasn’t a Net or Knick fan growing up, but a basketball fan who rooted for Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant among others.
The coveted 2019 free agent class will spawn the Kevin Durant’s, Kyrie Irving’s and Kawhi Leonard’s of the world, all of whom the Nets should at least seek out.
Then, after the premier class, which includes Durant, Irving, Leonard, possibly Jimmy Butler and others like Klay Thompson, you start to see names of the second tier, like Harris, like Kemba Walker, like Khris Middleton. The Nets should have the money.
As of this writing, the Nets should have at least $51.8 million in cap space, and at most, the team could have $84.2 million.
The Nets are contractually committed to the following next season:
Joe Harris: $7.67 million
Deron Williams: $5.5 million
Caris LeVert: $2.63 million
Jarrett Allen: $2.38 million
Dzanan Musa: $1.9 million
Rodions Kurucs: $1.7 million
… And that’s it, however, the expectation is that Allen Crabbe will accept his player option of $18.5 million, while Shabazz Napier ($1.85 million) and Treveon Graham ($1.7 million) have very organizationally friendly team options.
Of the remaining Nets who will hit free agency, only D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be restricted. (Russell’s fifth-year qualifying offer would be $9.16 million, while Hollis-Jefferson’s will be close to $3.6 million).
The Nets will also have a big decision to make on Spencer Dinwiddie – which can be made soon if both sides agree to a maximum, in-season four-year, $47 million extension – and it can be done anytime after December 8.
All things considered, it’s more than likely that the Nets will go into free agency without a clear answer at the 4, and even if Hollis-Jefferson is retained, he still hasn’t developed a three-pointer, and is currently coming off the bench in favor of Jared Dudley.
Coach Atkinson clearly loves spacing, which is at least one factor into Dudley starting and The Fro shooting three’s. (Ask Al Horford and Brook Lopez about Atkinson’s impact on their advanced shooting.)
It should also be a factor when heading into free agency, where the Nets made a strong bid for the sharpshooting Otto Porter one off-season ago.
That’s where Harris comes in. For his career, Harris is a 36% shooter from deep, and at 6’9”, 235-pounds or so, he has played the four much of his career. Going back to last season, Harris is shooting above 41% from deep, taking well over five per game, converting on over two.
And again, Long Island. The Half Hollow Hills West alum also spent a season playing for Long Island Lutheran.
Atkinson’s impressed with the University of Tennessee alum, who averaged 19.5 points in four games against Brooklyn last season.
“He just hit a lot of tough shots,” Atkinson marveled. “I thought on Tobias, we did a pretty good job, but he hit really tough shots. He’s an excellent player.”
And good news for those interested in Harris’ services, whether in New York or L.A. or points in between is that as he enters his prime — turning 27 in July, he still believes there’s another level in his game.
“There’s a lot more left,” he said of his growth and improvements. “I think (free agency) plays a factor, too. I knew that this was gonna be a big year for me to go into and prove, not only to other people, but prove to myself that I’ve put in a lot of work this time. To see the benefits of that work and see how much better I can get as a player year through year.”
Of course, his addition will be far from inexpensive and the Clippers can always offer him more. If Harris isn’t a max player, which he could be in the salary cap boom because all it takes is one team, he’s close.
But again, we’re just sayin’.
- Charles Barkley’s most underrated player dominates Nets - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Tobias Harris’ hard work paying off as he leads resurging Clippers - Brian Heyman - Newsday