People often quickly forget why Tobias Harris received such a lucrative contract.
The five-year, $180 million deal he signed on July 10, 2019, to stay with the 76ers is the first thing his critics mention after having a below-par game.
They wonder how someone of his caliber could receive the salary of a perennial All-NBA star, and the perks that come with it, when he’s never made a single All-Star team? They wonder how a guy who will be the Sixers’ third or fourth option next season will have the highest salary on the team.
The answers are simple.
The Sixers had to pay him for what they did when they did.
READ MORE: Tobias Harris signs contract to stay with Sixers
They acquired Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers for a boatload of picks and players in a trade on Feb. 6, 2019. The Sixers would have looked silly if Harris, who was an unrestricted free agent, left for another team.
They would never have survived the loss of Harris after including two first-round picks, two second-round picks and standout rookie Landry Shamet in a package. It would have been a lot of assets to give up for a 27-game rental.
If the Sixers hadn’t brought him back to that salary, he would have signed with another team for maximum salary.
The Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets were among the teams interested in the striker in free agency. All five teams could have offered maximum salary contracts.
By trading for Harris, the Sixers acquired his Bird rights. This allowed them to offer him a maximum contract of $188 million over five years. He and the team agreed to sign for $8 million less.
Franchises that did not have the rights to Harris were able to offer a four-year, $142 million maximum contract in free agency. The Sixers knew they had to offer five years and close to the maximum for him to stay.
Being in demand gave Harris leverage. Then, as it is now, Joel Embiid was the undisputed player in the Sixers franchise. Depending on the night or the situation, Harris was, at best, the third or fourth option. However, he could have chosen to go elsewhere and become the undisputed focal point of a team.
Fast forward to this summer, and Harris, 29, has two seasons and $76.9 million remaining on his contract.
READ MORE: Sixers’ James Harden walks out of deal, forfeits $47.3M free agency pay
The Sixers have publicly stated that they will bring back their core players, including Harris. However, privately the team are again trying to swap their fourth top scorer behind Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.
They couldn’t offload Harris by the Feb. 10 trade deadline of this season. Now sources have said they are looking to use his salary to fill in some of the holes around Embiid and Harden on their roster.
Harris could finally leave Philadelphia. But in the meantime, when you’re about to complain about his salary, think back to all the assets the Sixers gave up to acquire him.