Tobias Harris has been the biggest surprise of the season for the Magic after acquiring him in the J.J. Redick trade back in February. Nobody really knew who Harris was. He hardly played in Milwaukee.
This season with the Bucks, he played only 11.6 minutes per game and saw his minutes cut with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in front of him on the depth chart after he returned from injury. Harris is young and apt to make some mistakes. For the hard-charging, defensive-minded Scott Skiles leading a team with Playoff aspirations, Harris struggled to see the floor. In Milwaukee.
As we are learning now, much of it was probably not deserved and really came down to how much the coaching staff in Milwaukee trusted Harris and his ability to grow in Milwaukee.
The move to Orlando was an incredibly good one more than anything for the opportunity it afforded Harris.
"When I was in Milwaukee with [Tobias], I always knew he had potential and talent to be a great player," said Beno Udrih, who came to Orlando with Harris in the trade with Milwaukee, following the win over Washington. "I think in Milwaukee, they were just holding him back and they didn’t give him a real chance to show what he can do. Here, he got a chance and he is definitely proving himself and taking advantage of the chance."
Opportunity is a very powerful tool for a young player.
In Orlando, Harris is averaging 16.3 points per game in 34.2 minutes per game. He is shooting 46.1 percent from the floor even though he has seen his usage rate jump from 19.4 percent in Milwaukee to 22.4 percent in Orlando.
More than that, Harris has been given the green light to do what he does best — score. He has been given the confidence from his coaches to play his game and allow his talents to grow within the structure of this young team. Thanks to several injuries, Harris is now seeing plenty of playing time.
And he is thriving.
"I think we all are [learning about Harris’ toughness]," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "I think his teammates are learning about him. I am as a coach. The staff is. He’s taking advantage and using this growth period to showcase his game. He’s extremely competitive as you can see, a team guy which we want here. He has been good for us."
Vaughn said it sometimes seems like Harris is an eight-year veteran on the floor with the poise he displays at times in this his first opportunity with a green light just to play. It takes reminding that this is his second year in the NBA and he is only 20 years old. There is still a lot of growth for him to make.
Some of that is still on the defensive end.
In his limited time in Milwaukee, Harris was not even a bad defender this year, giving up less than one point per possession for the Bucks this year. Against Washington, Harris made several spectacular defensive plays including an anticipatory close out on Trevor Ariza on the fast break with the Magic up only three points late in Friday's win over Washington.
Harris could make those kind of plays, and potentially learn from any mistakes, because the Magic have put their trust in him.
After Wednesday's loss to Charlotte, Jacque Vaughn said he would review game tape with Harris to see how he could improve his decision making late in games. It only took one more game to see how those lessons would be applied. Harris was key on both ends to securing the victory.
"All my life I want the ball at the end of the game to try to close out the game," Tobias Harris said after Friday's win. "That’s part of me just growing as a player and knowing that they have confidence in you, you’ve got to be ready. I know the preparation I put in night in and night out and all the practice I put in, I knew when that opportunity came, I wanted to take advantage of it. "
He does not make those strides without the opportunity to do so and the faith the Magic have put in him.
So far, Harris is taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him.