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Toronto Raptors

NBA Trade Deadline: How Philadelphia 76ers trade for Tobias Harris impacts the Toronto Raptors

Tobias Harris averaged 11.5 PPG vs the Raptors this season
Tobias Harris averaged 11.5 PPG vs the Raptors this season (Getty Images)

If the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers meet again in the playoffs, Tuesday's result almost feels entirely irrelevant.

That's because hours after the Raptors' win, reports surfaced that the 76ers had traded for Clippers' star Tobias Harris, who himself was merely hours removed from a 34-point effort in Charlotte in which he hit the game winner with four seconds left.

MORE: Sixers to acquire Harris from Clippers

With the Raptors, 76ers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks all jockeying for position in an Eastern Conference that's as hotly contested as it's been in a long time, every significant move by any of those four teams is sure to have ripple effects that promise to carry on into this postseason and beyond.

Here are several of the ways that the Tobias Harris trade impacts the Toronto Raptors.

What Harris brings to the 76ers

To understand how the trade impacts the Raptors, one must first fully appreciate what Harris brings to the 76ers.

Cast as a number one option with the LA Clippers, the obvious takeaway is that Harris gives Philly one more potent scorer that can run the offence and score in bunches. Averaging a career-high 20.9 points per game, the 26-year-old forward is a versatile and efficient scorer who is threatening to put up 50-40-90.

At 6'9" and 240 pounds, Harris is big enough to bully smaller defenders on switches and quick enough to attack heavier-footed bigs. He can operate as either the ball handler or screener in pick-and-roll actions and is comfortable spotting up in catch-and-shoot situations. He gives the 76ers another end-of-game shot creator.

In an admittedly limited sample given his role with the Clippers, Harris is shooting 50% this season on corner 3s from either side, making him a potent option playing off of Joel Embiid post-ups, Jimmy Butler isolations or any actions involving Ben Simmons. It's tough to imagine a better fit offensively for the 76ers than Harris, even if it means incorporating one more option that's accustomed to having the ball.

Defensively, the 76ers are now huge. They can throw out a Simmons, Redick, Butler, Harris and Embiid lineup that stands 6'10", 6'4", 6'8", 6'9" and 7', projecting to be among the league's longest primary units that can switch and play straight up.

Harris brings added versatility to an already versatile outfit.

A defensive headache for Toronto

The Raptors defended Harris well in both games they saw him this season.

Harris finished with just 10 points on 4-10 shooting back in December and earlier this week, shot 5-18 en route to 13 points. Not only is that 11.5 points per game, far below his season average, but it's also among his worst against any team this season, all the more impressive considering Kawhi Leonard only played in one of the games.

In the two meetings with the Clippers, Harris was guarded primarily by Pascal Siakam and Danny Green, who combined to spend about 60% of defensive possessions on him according to Second Spectrum's player tracking data.

Harris on the 76ers presents an entirely different challenge.

Take for instance Tuesday's game. Siakam guarded Butler more than any player while Green spent most of his time on Landry Shamet, starting in place of JJ Redick. With Leonard primarily defending Ben Simmons, that left Kyle Lowry to guard the hodge podge of personnel that Philadelphia put out there.

Once the 76ers are at full strength, what do the Raptors do?

MORE: Takeaways from Toronto's win over the 76ers

Leonard and Siakam figure to match up primarily with Simmons and Harris, leaving Lowry and Green to handle the combination of Butler and Redick.

Lowry gives up seven inches to Butler. Though he's closer in size to Redick, it's a lot to ask him to chase around the Sixers' sniper, who is in constant motion and seemingly always coming off screens. Given Lowry's role on offence combined with the fact that he turns 33 in March, there could be some concerns on how Toronto matches up with Philly's best five.

Swapping in OG Anunoby or Delon Wright quells defensive concerns but at the price of taking Toronto's second-best offensive player off the floor.

More pressure to win now

Even prior to the trade, the Raptors were already invested in winning now.

Selling free agent to be Kawhi Leonard on a long-term future in Toronto largely depends on succeeding in the short term. Reach the NBA Finals and the Raptors' future looks far more palatable than if there's an early exit. Prior to the trade, you could make a case that no team in the East had pushed as many chips into winning this season as the Raptors.

That's now no longer the case as the 76ers find themselves in win-now mode despite both Embiid and Simmons locked up. With both Harris and Butler also entering free agency, there's pressure for the 76ers to win big now in order to secure their own future, especially given that they just traded away promising rookie guard Landry Shamet as well as two 1st-round picks. Three valuable future assets is a ton to give up.

With the 76ers positioning themselves for a potential go big or go home spring, that only ratchets up the stakes for Toronto.

Will the Raptors look to make another major move with the trade deadline looming large on Thursday? Will team president Masai Ujiri risk even more to compete now, knowing that the 76ers team his squad won three of four against in the regular season is not the same one they could face again in the postseason?

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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