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2019 NBA Free Agency: Tobias Harris could quickly help bring to life a New Orleans Pelicans formidable lineup around Zion and Jrue

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Instead of throwing big money at a center, why not chase one of the most well-rounded players in the league?

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Tobias Harris is going to be in high demand during the upcoming free agency period, and according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the New Orleans Pelicans are expected to be one of the teams in legitimate pursuit.

On the surface, Harris looks to be quite the interesting fit due to possessing multiple attributes that fit neatly into today’s modern action. Alvin Gentry consistently preaches pace, wanting to get up and down the floor as quickly as possible. David Griffin has already gone on record multiple times stating that he is focused on building a team utilizing the strengths of his head coach. And lo and behold, Harris says that he will also prioritize a fast style of play when inking his next contract.

Were the Pelicans to splurge, Harris would likely eat up all of New Orleans cap space for next season and obviously carve out an enormous piece of the pie on the books the next three years, too. A 7-9 year veteran can sign for up to $32,700,000 this summer with a new team and that commitment could surpass $140 million if signed to the maximum four years. However, Harris doesn’t pose the same amount of risk as some other top free agents, and if you look at future free agent markets, taking a swing now is far from the worst idea as the ideal talent may not be there down the road.

Surprising to many, Harris will turn 27 on July 15th so there should be less worry about throwing such a huge chunk of change at a player in his prime unlike say an Al Horford. Moreover, Harris can do it all: rebound, shoot the three-ball, get out in transition, finish and create for himself as well as others. For an athletic 6’9 player, his handle is good and he can guard multiple positions.

On paper, Harris could be that final important piece in creating New Orleans own death lineup very, very soon.

Zion Williamson, while a wide-eyed rookie, is expected to adjust quickly to the NBA thanks to his genetically blessed abilities, instincts and basketball IQ. Many envision he’ll be able to affect the game in ways similar to Draymond Green but with exponentially greater doses of wow factor and of course plenty more scoring. Add to the mix Jrue Holiday, a supremely gifted two-way star, rising young players in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, and shooters/scorers off the bench in Josh Hart, E’Twaun Moore and Frank Jackson, one additional dynamic wing/big could make a notable difference to New Orleans position in the standings as soon as next year.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If the Pelicans were to land Harris, the starting center position could very much remain in question. Yet if the front office can’t bring in Brook Lopez at a price significantly lower than max dollars and years, would it be such an iffy proposition? There are negatives surrounding nearly all of the free agents and how much sense does it actually make to pay an obscene amount of money to fill the center position in today’s up-and-down game? Zion should be able to spend time at center, Jaxson Hayes is sitting in the wings, Jahlil Okafor and Christian Wood could be stopgaps to varying degrees, and bargains should be available on the open market. Remember, the Milwaukee Bucks added Brook Lopez for a cost of just $3.3 million last summer!

One additional thing to like about Harris: his seemingly perfect fit in New Orleans. Griffin has been up front and to the point about seeking the right type of human beings for the creation of a new culture within the locker room. Harris seems like a prime candidate. On the floor he’s all about winning, and his game is tailor-made towards playing within the flow of an offense and his versatility would be prized immensely. Off the floor, Harris has been praised for his personality and demeanor. One needs to look no further than his incredible friendship with Boban Marjanovic.

“It’s unique, you know?” Harris says. “Most people see us and they think it’s an odd friendship. But those are the people that don’t really know Boban as a person. They may not know myself as a person. When you look at the similarities of our personalities, it’s two caring people who put others first, who want to bring light to different people. I think that’s why we really have a good friendship, because we care for others, sometimes more than we care for ourselves.”

If the Pelicans front office were to sign Harris, I can truly envision a path to where New Orleans could take advantage of winning now and in the future. Furthermore, Griffin doesn’t need to sacrifice future assets in surrounding Zion with good teammates. Let most of this year’s draft class develop at their pace but with Holiday, Ingram and others already in place, nabbing one more difference-maker in free agency could really jumpstart the new era.

To be totally blunt, I would rather see Zion start experiencing fun and playoff atmospheres sooner rather than later. We’ve just witnessed how the alternative can play out as Anthony Davis refused to even reconsider his decision to escape to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers despite all of the goodness evidenced in New Orleans these last couple of months.

Harris is undoubtedly one of many options for Griffin, but he’s one of my favorites — even though it will require a huge investment.