Looking at Tobias Harris' role in Sixers' offense, Joel Embiid's guard-like skills


In this week’s film review, we look at Tobias Harris’ role in the offense 14 games into his tenure as a Sixer. And, with the return of Joel Embiid, we dive a little bit into how the Sixers are using his guard-like talents.

Harris’ role in the offense 

Much of Harris’ offense has come from running with Ben Simmons on the fast break, lurking on the edge of plays, or knocking down spot-up three-pointers. Recently, it seems the Sixers have worked to give him a more central role.

The play below begins with Harris and Jonah Bolden setting staggered screens for T.J. McConnell. As McConnell dribbles right, Bolden screens for Harris off the ball, taking James Harden out of the play. Bolden’s screen gets Harris an advantageous matchup against Nene and he winds up with a good look at the rim.

Here’s another example of that same action vs. Indiana. On this occasion, Harris flares off Amir Johnson’s screen and gets an open three.

Tuesday night, Harris was the player receiving the staggered screens. Mike Scott set the first screen and popped, Boban Marjanovic set the second screen and rolled, and Harris had a chance to attack Channing Frye. The veteran didn’t look thrilled to be left all alone against Harris.

Marjanovic’s size obviously means he’s difficult to handle as a screener, but he’s also shown decent feel as a passer. The timing and touch on this bounce pass to Harris was beautiful — the two friends clearly have an advanced understanding of each other on the court.

The Embiid-Harris pairing is young, but it appears to be developing. Here, Embiid gets the ball on the left wing and takes a dribble toward Harris in the corner, prompting Harris to cut backdoor behind Cedi Osman. 

Embiid’s guard-like skills

Embiid has reminded us — in between the inevitable stretches of rustiness and sloppiness that coincide with an eight-game absence — of his prowess as an interior defender and post scorer. He’s also shown flashes of sublime skill for a man his size.

To Brett Brown’s credit, he often puts Embiid in spots that aren’t typical for seven-footers. On this after-timeout play, Simmons gives the ball to JJ Redick at the top of the key, and Redick passes it to Harris at the right elbow. From there, Redick sprints down to the left block to set a down screen for Embiid. The big man flares off Redick’s screen instead of curling up and crosses over Myles Turner.

Embiid beat Turner on a drive again a little over a minute later. After getting a pass on the left wing from Simmons and dishing it to Embiid, Redick curls toward Embiid, seemingly set to initiate their familiar two-man game. But Embiid fakes the handoff and gets to the rim with two long, fluid dribbles. 

This final play was one of the Sixers’ best offensive sequences this week, and it all started with Embiid operating from the top of the key. With a mismatch against Jordan Clarkson, Embiid drives to the rim and forces Cleveland’s defense to scramble. They never recovered from that initial pressure placed on them by Embiid. 

Though he can be a dominant post player, Embiid is far from useless on the perimeter. Sure, he might sometimes need to stifle his instinct to play like a guard when it leads him to force the action and turn the ball over, but Brown and the Sixers know Embiid's agility and ball handling can pose problems against opposing big guys. 

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