Originally an afterthought of the blockbuster trade that sent Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, Montrezl Harrell has truly found a home in Los Angeles with the Clippers. After becoming the only player in the league last season to average over 10 points a game while playing under 18 minutes, the Clippers locked Trez down to an absolute bargain of a contract at 2 years and $12 million. For a guy that averaged 11 points a game on 63.5 percent shooting in only 17 minutes a game last season, this signing was seen as a huge steal for L.A.
Trez has not slowed his roll one bit this season, as he is currently averaging 13.5 points (on 64.4 percent shooting) and 6.2 rebounds in only 20 minutes per game. He went off for a career high against his former team, the Houston Rockets, throwing up 30 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including an incredible 14-for-15 from the line. He has now scored double-figures in four straight games while shooting an astounding 77.6 percent.
We have known Trez, over these last two seasons, as an energy boost off the bench. Someone that can dunk anything within five feet, has a deft touch around the basket with a litany of post moves to go to, a surprisingly good passer for his position, and someone who will do anything to win. His offensive stats this season jump out, because in such little time, Trez has done a lot of damage. In team offensive stats, Trez is 2nd on the team in field goal percentage, 2nd in true field goal percentage, 2nd in effective field goal percentage, third in net rating, fourth in scoring, fourth in rebounding, fifth in offensive rebounding percentage, fourth in free throws made, 2nd in free throws attempted and finally, second in points per shot per game (PPS). Hyper-efficient has been the name of Harrell’s game now dating back to his time in Houston, and this has escalated since coming to L.A.
We know what he can provide offensively every night, and his scoring output has jumped very season he has been in the league. However, the other end of the court is where Trez has improved his impact so far this season. While his height at 6’8” can cause matchup problems given that Trez plays a true five, he has actually improved his defensive numbers so far this season.
Through six games, Trez leads the Clippers in: blocks per game, block percentage, player efficiency rating, defensive box plus/minus, box plus/minus, win shares per 48 minutes, and defensive win shares. He is only allowing opponents to shoot 40.8 percent from the field when he is guarding them, and has a defensive rebounding percentage of 24.6 percent, third best on the team.
If you want to take stats out of this, just watch one game. There is a noticeable change in energy when Trez hits the floor. He is able to score around the rim despite a height disadvantage against every center he faces, and makes his presence known on the defensive end. He has incredible chemistry so far with Lou Williams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the pick-and-roll game has been working to a tee. Harrell is always in the right place at the right time and has great hands to be able to catch any kind of pass that comes his way.
In transition, Harrell is always pushing the pace. He gets a handful of points every game strictly by using his hustle to get in the lane on fast breaks and get easy finishes. His ability to finish in traffic might be his strongest attribute: every single time he goes up to finish, he seems to get hit on the arms but finish anyway. His ability to use his vertical jump off two feet and quickly get to the rim, is why he is so effective in this category and why defenses have a hard time blocking his shot. His awareness in the paint also allows him to get fouled going up for shots, as he utilizes a quick pump-fake to get people in the air as he’s going up.
Another cool aspect of his game is his chameleon-like quality of being able to play with any rotation the Clippers throw out there. He has played with the first, second, and some of the third unit so far, and has thrived in every situation. For someone who has only been in the league for only four years, this quality is huge in defining impact. All in all, it’s hard not to be excited about Trez’s play so far this season and he looks like he could potentially take another step towards becoming a better player with his play in 2018-19.
Before the season, Trez had a Tweet that simply said “MIP” with a trophy emoji pinned to the top of his profile page. It’s clear that Harrell has hardware in mind in his fourth season and given his efficiency and output thus far, it’s hard to think that he wouldn’t at least be in the conversation.
MIP⏳— Montrezl Harrell (@MONSTATREZZ) August 4, 2018
Another conversation that Harrell might be entrenched in come season-end is for Sixth Man of the Year. Currently, the Clippers lead the league in bench scoring with an average of 58.3 points per game. With Lou Williams, Harrell, and SGA making up 67% of that bench scoring average, this team could have 3 SMOY candidates Harrell, if he continues to provide efficient minutes, might even be the strongest of those candidates.
Harrell passes both the eyeball and statistical tests as a player who brings a tremendous impact to this team. He helps the team win games: simple and plain. While it is to be determined if Harrell will ever step into a starters’ role, and overtake the struggling Marcin Gortat, he will continue to impress no matter the role. He has endeared himself to fans of this organization with his energetic play and show-stopping dunks (not to mention a serious shoe-game), and seems to be on pace for some trophy talk come May.