Two Former Vols Make Big Moves in NBA Free Agency

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    With three Vols being taken in the 2019 NBA Draft, more Vol fans are likely to start paying attention to the NBA more for the next few years. But before those most recent former Vols can make their marks as professionals, there were two other former UT players who were involved in some big moves in the first day of NBA free agency on Sunday night.

    Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson are now teammates in Philadelphia after the first few hours of the NBA free agency period on Sunday evening. Harris agreed to a five-year, $180 million deal to remain with the Philadelphia 76ers after being traded there from the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2018-19 season. Harris played the final 27 games of the regular season with the 76ers and helped them make a run in the playoffs.

    In an article on ESPN, Harris detailed his reasoning behind wanting to stay in Philadelphia after spending only a few months there.

    “As soon as I arrived from the LA Clippers in February, I could see the possibilities with this group of players, organization and city,” Harris said. “We’ve got unfinished business, and I’m ready to commit to a long-term vision of bringing a title to Philadelphia. From the moment I arrived in Philadelphia, the city has embraced me. This is an incredible sports town, and it’s hungry for an NBA title. So are the Sixers — and so am I.”

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    Harris is getting some help to pursue his title dreams in Philly, as the 76ers made several other moves on Sunday, such as signing free agent forward Al Horford after he chose not to stay in Boston. Philadelphia also added another former Vol to their roster to pair up with Harris.

    Philadelphia and the Miami Heat agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that sent Jimmy Butler to the Heat and former Vol Josh Richardson to the 76ers. The Heat drafted Richardson in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft, and he’s spent his first four seasons in the NBA with the Heat. Now, he’ll move up north and will play with Harris for at least this upcoming season.

    Both Harris and Richardson are still relatively young and are just now seemingly hitting their prime. Harris turns 27 later this month, and Richardson will be 26 in September.

    The two former Vols are coming off their best years in the NBA so far as they prepare to team up in Philadelphia. Harris played in all 82 regular season games this season — 55 with the Clippers and 27 with the 76ers — and averaged career-highs in points per game (20.0), rebounds per game (7.9), and assists per game (2.8) all while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 39.7 percent from three.

    Richardson also posted career-highs across the board, reaching career-bests in points per game (16.6), assists per game (4.1), and rebounds per game (3.6). He made 41.2 percent of his shots and 35.7 percent of his three-pointers.

    In eight NBA seasons with five different teams, Harris has averaged 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 546 games. In four seasons, Richardson is averaging 12.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 259 games.

    Harris was a one-and-done player for the Vols during the 2010-11 season, earning Second Team All-SEC honors and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team for his one and only year as a Vol. Richardson played with Tennessee for four seasons from 2011-15 and was named a First Team All-SEC guard in 2015 and was a two-time selection to the SEC All-Defensive Team.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.