Montrezl Harrell embodies what it means to be an underdog. Underrecruited, Underrated, undersized and underpaid (honestly). However, on the court, despite typically being 3-5 inches smaller than the man he is defending — Trezz stands under no one. He is the one dictating movement. He is the rising over everyone to get to the rim and snatch boards. He is a player that maintains an energy level, for the full 29.7 minutes he averages, that can only be compared to taking down five espresso’s then lacing them up. An unrelenting, unwavering intensity that feeds everyone in the building.
Harrell, in three years, has gone from Chris Paul trade afterthought, who the Clippers didn’t even know belonged on the team, to one of the best big men in the NBA. Currently averaging 19.1 points and 8 rebounds off the bench, Harrell continues to be the backbone of the Clippers franchise and a big reason why they were successful the past two seasons, despite lacking a true “star” and will be a massive reason why the Clips will contend for a championship this season. Some have said that the only reason Trezz is good is because of the passing and defensive distraction that Lou Williams is. Wrong. Montrezl Harrell is good period. Just ask your favorite teams players what they think about him.
To give the people some numeric insights into what he is doing this season, Trezz is both a basic and advanced analytic darling. He’s 3rd in the league in total 2-pt field goals (175), 9th in the league in offensive rebounds with 66 and 20th in blocks with 26 (remember, dude is only 6’8”). He’s also 7th in field goal percentage and 19th in effective field-goal percentage. Perhaps my favorite stat of them all: Trezz is 2nd in the league with 14 charges taken. Nice.
To get a bit nerdier stats-wise, Harrell is 8th in the NBA in total win shares (3.1) 9th in offensive win shares (2.0) and 19th in defensive win shares (1.1). To go along with a player efficiency rating of 24.5 (14th in the NBA) and a net rating of 10.4 (12th in the league of players who average 25+ minutes) he’s 11th in VORP (ahead of guys like Kemba Walker, Nikola Jokic and Ben Simmons) and 13th in box plus/minus. He’s also first on the team in offensive rating (113.2). When you factor in John Hollinger’s even nerdier ESPN stats — Harrell shines. The most important one being “value added.” He’s the first Clipper on the list and is 10th in the league in “Value added” at 127.8. All of this despite only being 62nd in usage across the entire league. And fourth on his own team. Chef’s kiss.
If we’re being real here for a second, Harrell is the antithesis of what “should” work in today’s NBA. He’s shorter than most wings in the league today and can’t shoot consistently outside of ten feet. He will shoot a three from time to time but has only made five in his five-year career. He’s 0-for-8 this season. He doesn’t stretch the floor and his handle, while developing, is still loose. All of this, yet, Trezz is putting up All-Star numbers and is in his fourth season of improving in nearly every statistical category. He’s the true spark plug to this team and despite being the “seventh man”, is the lifeblood to what makes the Clippers one of the best teams in the league. And they are only paying him $6 million. What a crazy world we live in.
What Trezz has been able to do this season isn’t surprising to anyone who has watched the Clippers the past two years. Now, did people think he’d be putting up nearly 20 and 8 nightly? Maybe some, but we shouldn’t be shocked at any developments in Harrell’s game. That’s what makes him so dangerous — What could Trezz become? Is this his ceiling? Or are we seeing maybe 75% of what his final form could be? I’d bet on the latter given his proclivity for improvement on a year-to-year basis, his hyper-caffeinated energy on the floor and his seemingly tireless motor that seems him play daily pickup against formidable competition in the offseason and doing the little things daily to help him get better
How can Trezz take another step? It all starts with his shot. Despite being undersized against every big man that guards him, Trezz is still one of the most efficient scorers at the rim. That won’t ever change. He bullies dudes and uses his 7’4” wingspan, quick leaping abilities and phenomenal spacial awareness to get to the rim and finish whenever he wants. However, when Trezz is outside of five feet, his offensive game takes a dip. While he is shooting 70.5% inside of five feet this season, if he’s 5-9 feet out from the hoop, that number tumbles to 40%. 10-14 feet? Only 22.2%. Those are alarming numbers for someone who is one of the more efficient players in the association. Adding even an average jumpshot to his game would make Trezz one of the most unguardable players in today’s game. He already could throw his hat into the ring of that conversation, truly.
The Clippers will be in a very interesting spot this Summer. While the Larry O’B is directly in their line of sight, Trezz will be an unrestricted free-agent this summer. You better believe it is in the back of the minds of everyone in that front-office. In five seasons in the league, Harrell has only made $15.5 million in contract cash. With his play the past few years, Trezz is in line to make more than that yearly on his next deal, as he rightfully should. Can the Clips afford to keep him? Will another team out-bid them? These are things to worry about down the line, but can’t be overlooked when discussing Montrezl and this franchise.
For now, we can enjoy the spoils of having him on a sweetheart deal and relish in the fact that a 6’8” second-round draft pick, that the Clippers got in what is looking like a steal of a trade has turned into one of the better bigs in the NBA under their watch. It’s Montrezl Harrell’s world, we’re just living in it.
Stat rankings courtesy of Basketball Reference. Others provided by stats.nba.com.