The Pistons are constructed not too dissimilar from many NBA teams. They lack one true superstar, but they have a collection of players that are capable of scoring 30 a night. That same collection of players is capable of laying a dud and struggling to score points. However, Tobias Harris is off to an All-Star caliber start, just three games in.
Harris may be the Pistons most important, and most irreplaceable player. He is averaging 24.3 points per game on just 35.3 minutes, an incredibly efficient rate. He scored 31 points in a comeback win against the New York Knicks, and 27 points in an opening night win over the Charlotte Hornets.
However, in a loss to the Wizards he only took 10 shots, managing to hit 5 of them on his way to scoring 15 points. In the two games Detroit has won he was incredibly efficient, aggressive, and found a way to lead the Pistons offensively. It is clear he is Detroit’s most important player, one that is often forgotten about when analyzing this team.
Now, for Harris, it is a matter of if he can keep this up. For one, his role has changed slightly from last season, as he is able to rely more heavily on Avery Bradley and Stanley Johnson to do the bulk of the defensive work against other wing players. This frees things up on offense for Harris to strike.
He is most lethal in the mid range and off the dribble. Always has been. Harris has a knack for knowing when to stop and pop or when to take the extra dribble to get to the rim. However, one thing that was questionable through a large part of his early career was if he could hit the outside shot consistently enough to play in today’s NBA. So far through three games, he is shooting 47 percent from three. That has to continue if he is to continue being the elite scorer he has been to start the season.
In the two wins over New York and Charlotte, Harris attempted 24 shots, and 18 shots respectively. This kind of aggressiveness is paramount for the Pistons offense. Harris needs to shoot the ball 15 plus times a game. This takes some pressure off the Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick-and-roll, a feature of the Pistons offense that teams know they can execute very well.
The bottom line is, Harris can continue this, can have an All-Star (especially in the weak Eastern Conference) type year. But for the Pistons sake, he needs to continue it. The starting five of Jackson, Bradley, Harris, Johnson, and Drummond lacks an elite wing-scorer. Bradley can score, but he expends so much energy locking down the opponents best scorer that it’s better for Detroit if he isn’t relied on as much on offense.
The Pistons have enough talent to win a playoff series in the East. Not just make the playoffs but advance. But much of that relies on how far this offense can take them. They have good defenders. Jackson can guide the offense. But come playoff time, you need a guy you can give the ball to and say “go get a bucket.” Harris can, and needs to be that guy.