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LA Clippers 2019-2020 Player Preview: Montrezl Harrell

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Montrezl Harrell has high expectations this season coming off a breakout 2019 campaign.

LA Clippers Open Practice Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Basic Information

Height: 6’8”

Weight: 240 pounds

Position: C/PF

Age: 25

Years of NBA Experience: 4

Key Stats: Played in all 82 games in 2018-2019, averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.3 blocks in 26.3 minutes per game. Shot 61.5% from the floor and 64.3% from the free throw line, taking five free throws per game.

Contract Status: In second year of 2/12 deal, unrestricted free agent in summer of 2020.

Expectations

Two years after being an afterthought in the Chris Paul trade, Montrezl Harrell is expected to be one of the best players and leading offensive options on a championship-level roster. That speaks not only to Trez’s growth as a player and his hard work, but his incredible basketball talent that has risen to the fore in the past two seasons. Montrezl is not only expected to be an anchor on the second unit, one-half of a dominant pick and roll combination with Lou Williams, but a frequent presence for the Clippers while closing games as well. Trez will presumably be the Clippers leading scorer in the paint and perhaps their leading rebounder as well. Intangibly, Trez will provide heart, energy, and a relentless motor to power the entire team forward on nights where they might otherwise be lethargic. He is, within almost all expectations, one of the several most important players on this Clippers roster. The Clippers’ season doesn’t hinge on him, but if the Clippers win the championship, Trez will assuredly be a big reason why.

Strengths

Trez’ strengths are extremely potent. Despite being slightly undersized for a big man, he’s one of the most terrifying players in the league when he’s rolling to the rim. His incredible strength and explosive athleticism make him nearly unstoppable when he catches the ball with momentum heading towards the basket. Trez will finish up, over, and around defenders of all sizes, powering through all but the strongest rim protectors to dunk or lay in a soft hook.

However, while Trez is a deadly roller, he does a lot more than that. His passing improved greatly over the course of last season, as he became more adept at hitting shooters (and other big men) when playing 4 on 3 after catching in the short roll. Additionally, he pared down his wild charges up the court, instead pushing it ahead to a guard or handling the ball in a more controlled manner. Basically, Trez’s offensive awareness and situational decision-making took several steps forward and promised further improvement.

However, Harrell’s biggest strengths are the intangibles that he brings to the table. It’s cliché, but he has a motor that never stops running. Outside of the tangible benefits that brings in terms of hustle stats on the court, it also prods other players into playing the same way, developing a team that takes on the identity of one of its beating hearts. And that was what Trez was last year for that Clippers team: its heart. He never got down, always played hard, and worked tremendously on every possession to get just a little bit more out of it. That sense of urgency will be all the more important this year on a team that has far more talent, but is also likely to lack some of that “chip on shoulder” intensity. Trez is important not just for his basketball skills, which are tremendous, but for the culture and attitude he has helped to set, and will continue to set.

Weaknesses

It makes sense for a player as hard-working as Trez that his biggest weakness is something out of his control. At a (generous) 6’8”, Trez is somewhat undersized to play center in the NBA, his natural position, and he can get taken out of the game on both ends because of it. Defensively, he’s just too small to grapple with the biggest bodies the NBA has to offer, like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, as they can shoot over him or push him down in the post. On the other end, sometimes Harrell can get smothered by those same stout presences, as he can’t find the room necessary to get his finesse shots off, nor can he power through them. Harrell has other weaknesses too, like his lack of shooting and his still nascent sense of when to pass, but if he was just a couple inches taller, he’d be a starting center capable of squaring off against any big man in the NBA. Alas.

The Clippers are going to rely heavily on Montrezl Harrell this year as their primary big man. He has his flaws, like any other player, but will be a crucial presence on this team due to his scoring, offensive rebounding, and overall energy.