If your curveball is working, why go away from it?
Mere hours after pulling the unexpected trigger on a three way trade that brought Stephen Jackson, Beno Udrih, Shaun Livingston, and the 19th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Corey Maggette (Charlotte Bobcats), John Salmons and the 10th overall pick (Sacramento Kings), the Bucks threw fans and media another bender by taking 18-year-old combo forward Tobias Harris with the 19th pick.
As surprising as the pick was (no media member interviewed Harris post-practice at his Milwaukee workout earlier this month), the 2011 NBA Draft was weak enough that nearly every pick could be justified on some reasonable level. Beauty was in the eye of the general manager, so to speak, and there are quite a few reasons to like Tobias Harris in a Bucks uniform, regardless of the inevitable rushes to judgment from fan bases longing for familiar names (Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer, anyone?).
Let’s start with the positives:
Tobias Harris stands at 6’8”, weighs in at 225 lbs, and was the RSCI’s sixth-ranked prospect in his class (ahead of Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, and Perry Jones). As a freshman at Tennessee, Harris averaged 15 points and 7 rebounds per game, and only failed to crack double digits in points three times all season. He has a powerful upper body and has advanced dribbling skills for a player of his stature.
Harris is quick enough to beat traditional big men off the dribble, and has long possessed a high basketball IQ and extremely high work ethic. Both of the latter traits will keep Harris relevant in the NBA long after his ceiling has been cracked and Father Time comes to collect his due. His jumper is still a work in progress, but he has shown some range as a shooter (30% from beyond the arc as a freshman, which was better than Alec Burks, in case you were wondering).
Ah, the curse of being a tweener. The quickness that helps Tobias Harris beat power forwards to the bucket will kill him against the standard NBA small forwards (at least until he grows a bit more). Harris isn’t naturally athletic, and still has some baby fat on his undersized frame. He also doesn’t have many post moves, and his pull up jumper needs significant work in order to turn it into something other than an occasional weapon.
According to Draft Express, Tobias Harris’ ceiling lands in the Shane Battier (plus offense) category, and his floor is Ryan Gomes. Walter Football likens his versatility to that of Boris Diaw, another tweener forward capable of handling the ball and draining the occasional mid-range jumper. Getting a Boris Diaw or Shane Battier out of this draft would be considered a win by any measurement, considering the talent pool.
With the exception of natural athletic ability, every one of Tobias Harris’ weaknesses can be improved with age. His excellent basketball IQ, versatility (John Hammond said he may see minutes at the three), and gym rat mentality will get him quite a few minutes as a rookie in the Bucks’ rotation. His success as a teenage college player, on a team as stable as the Jersey Shore cast, is also a testament to his abilities and work ethic.
Unfamiliarity breeds fan contempt in events as impactful as the draft, and the instant reaction from Bucks fans (at least on visible entities such as message boards, Twitter, and article comments) was somewhat expected when recognizable players like Marshon Brooks and Jordan Hamilton were on the board. The Bucks went with the Best Player Available according to their needs, as they said they would, and for now it seems like the strategy netted them a potential steal to add to already successful trade heist.