Welcome back to Stock Watch, a regular feature where we’ll check in on which Clippers are playing well, not so hot, or just can’t crack the rotation.
No one has been as good as Sweet Lou recently, but since that’s already been covered, Montrezl Harrell has been a really close second. Harrell shoulders a large minute load for a reserve — for the week, only Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari exceeded his time on the floor — and he still contributes remarkable efficiency at high usage. This season, Harrell is 11th in true shooting percentage (64.6) among players who have played in 20 games and play at least 15 minutes per contest. He was at 70.4 percent in the past week, as he put up 20 points and nearly nine rebounds per game.
Harrell showed off some versatility in his game this week. He assisted on 20.4 percent of the Clippers’ baskets in the last three games, second on the team to only Lou Williams, and even more remarkable considering Trez mostly shares the court with Lou. Harrell made some basic passes out of high screens to set his teammates up on the perimeter. More tantalizing for his future potential were two assists that Harrell had out of the short roll after running pick-and-roll with Williams: one was a strike to the corner for an Avery Bradley three, the other a gorgeous bounce pass to a cutting Gallinari for a dunk. Trez also protected the basket well and tried to showcase his range with a turnaround jumper that elicited mixed feelings from Doc Rivers.
On the whole, though, Rivers couldn’t be prouder of Harrell. After Saturday’s loss against Detroit, when Harrell finished with 21 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 blocks, Rivers was asked about Trez’s all-around game. “I don’t know what Trez does every night, except for it’s good,” Rivers said. “It’s funny looking at the stat sheet after the game, and you’re like, ‘oh wow, I didn’t know he did all those things.’ He’s just one of those players.”
Part of the reason Harrell has assumed a larger role is because the other players at his position have been less effective. Boban Marjanovic has hardly seen the floor, and Marcin Gortat, save for a strong performance on Polish Heritage Day, has not been producing well. Gortat was a strong offensive center in Washington, and his offense has mostly been good this season as he as adapted to a new role of being a roll man instead of popping for jumpers. Even though the offense has taken a dip recently, partly a function of the LA starting lineup going through a lull, the real issue is the Gortat’s defense falling off of a cliff.
The Clippers have had a nagging habit of digging themselves into early holes. They’re scoring plenty, but they’ve been hemorrhaging points on the other end — that’s a direct result of the defense in the starting lineup. Gortat’s defensive rating in the last three games as LA went 1-2 was 127.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. That simply isn’t good enough, especially since centers derive most of their value on defense. Opponents have been getting to the rim more frequently with Gortat on the floor, where he provides little rim protection and hasn’t been closing out possessions with rebounds. It would be hard to ask more of Harrell, and Marjanovic is only really effective in specific matchups, so Gortat needs to be better.
Keep an eye on:
The second-year Swiss Army knife is having one of his best stretches of the season. He is shooting 52 percent from the field on 13.8 minutes per game in the month of January, and even though he can’t yet scratch from beyond the arc, Wallace’s constant cutting and pushing the pace makes him a net positive on offense.
Although he functioned primarily as a lead guard last season, Wallace has adapted to get on the floor this year, slotting as a small forward on most occasions, and even playing some power forward against Detroit when the Pistons went small. His defense has translated no matter which position he is playing, thanks to his long arms and high activity level in the passing lanes. The Clippers have had a rough time on defense since December 1, ranking 28th in the league with a 113.0 defensive rating, but Wallace has been a bright spot, posting a 104.3 rating in that same period.
Wallace even jumped Mike Scott in the rotation last week, earning more minutes than the veteran forward. Wallace has Doc Rivers’ trust — he just needs to continue to validate it.