Tobias Harris playing himself into hefty contract

It is hard not to look at Tobias Harris‘ play this season and not begin thinking about the uncertainty of his future and restricted free agency this summer.

Harris has been playing some of his best basketball of late, creeping into the All Star conversation. He has added to his scoring and continues to rebound well for a player of his type.

So undoubtedly, some thought has turned to what that means for his free agent future. He is averaging 18.7 points per game on a career-best 48.1 percent shooting entering Friday’s game in Atlanta. Harris is playing more efficiently offensively and has kept up his rebounding (although his rebound percentage is slightly down from last season).

Harris is a reliable offensive option and has done a great job making his case for a big contract this summer. It is hard not to focus on that, even though Harris told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel that he is not focused on that part of the season.

It is hard not to think about it though. The Magic’s future is not too far from everyone’s mind as they make their way through this season.

By all accounts, the Magic and Harris just priced Harris at different points. Orlando felt comfortable letting him test free agency and leave itself the option to match. Harris invested in himself and assumed he would be able to make the money he believed he would get from the Magic on the open market.

So far, that investment is paying off for Harris. If you believe Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, that is in a big way.

Harris and the Magic are saying all the right things. They both want the relationship to continue, but given how well Harris is playing, it’s pretty clear he’s going to land an offer sheet, likely in the $13-$14 million range. The question becomes will Orlando match something like that, or are they better served letting Harris walk and using their cap space later on down the road?

There is no reason to believe in any animosity between the Magic and Harris after this summer. It was simply business. It remains simply business.

Still, to see that number put next to Harris’ name is staggering. That is nearly maximum money for Harris. That would have to be enough to give the Magic pause in deciding whether to match or not.

Further, Kyler predicts this could play out similar to Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe this summer. By publicly stating they will match any offer, they are forcing teams to make poison-pill offers and back-loaded deals. But most teams do not have the patience for it.

That is what Monroe and the Pistons and Bledsoe and the Suns learned. Bledsoe eventually got his deal (five years, $70 million) and Monroe settled for a qualifying offer and unrestricted free agency this summer.

It appears this is looking like the game the Magic will be playing with Harris moving forward. Until then, he is going to have to keep producing to prove his worth and get that deal he is after.