Name: Montrezl Harrell
Years in the NBA: 5 years
Key stats: Harrell played 63 regular-season games for the Clippers, coming off the bench for all but two. He averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game. Harrell appeared in all 13 playoff games, averaging 10.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game. For clarity, here’s what those statistics look like per-36 minutes.
Montrezl Harrell per-36 minutes
Future contract status: Harrell just completed a 2-year, $12 million contract and is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Harrell was the beating heart of the Clippers during the regular season, a consistent source of energy off the bench who played in all but one game before the bubble and was arguably the most reliable player on the team in terms of his day-to-day output.
He and Lou Williams had feasted on opposing bench units the year before with the pick-and-roll, a combination that even worked against the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs for extended stretches. As a resulted, defenses were prepared for that action in 2019-20. No matter — Harrell had spent his offseason working on his isolation game, and he still was a menace on offense facing up against bench bigs, and using his speed and unorthodox floaters to score easily. Harrell’s motor was always running on the offensive end.
Doc Rivers thought of Harrell as his security blanket — no Clipper played more minutes in the clutch than the Sixth Man of the Year. Harrell’s productivity and consistency made him a deserving winner of that award.
Alas, it all fell apart in the bubble. Harrell’s grandmother passed away shortly after the restart and he missed all of the seeding games to be with her and his family during that time. When he returned for the start of the postseason, he was out of shape. The matchups against Dallas’ Boban Marjanovic and Denver’s Nikola Jokic were especially taxing for Harrell, and his postseason production left a bad taste on his season.
Harrell is a really good offensive player. He brings a level of energy that takes a moment for teams to adjust to during the regular season, as his pace and his intensity are two of his best skills. He is a willing screen setter, rolls hard to the basket, and has a certain flair on his finishes that gets his teammates and the fans at Staples Center going.
He ranked in the 81st and 84th percentiles in scoring efficiency as a roll man and in isolation, respectively, showing the versatility of his offensive game.
Harrell made some strides on defense this season as well. Too small to block shots at the basket, he instead became a serviceable rim protector by finishing second in the league in charges drawn. He was also more engaged as a switch defender.
Finally, Harrell is supremely durable. He only missed one game with the flu this season, and he is generally capable of playing heavy minutes without his level of play dropping.
The playoffs showed that Harrell is fairly easy to scheme out of a game. A bigger, more physical center can take away Harrell’s airspace on offense and can similarly bully Harrell around the basket on the other end.
Harrell wasn’t as effective around the basket as he was in past years; he only made 67% of his shots at the rim this year, which is a below-average mark for a big. Defenses were emboldened to apply pressure on him at the paint, even to the point of fouling, because Harrell is a poor free-throw shooter. His perimeter shooting remains nonexistent, as well. Of his 18 3-point attempts this season, 13 of them were heaves at the end the shot-clock or quarter.
The Clippers used Harrell as if he were a switchable small-ball big. However, though he has the lateral mobility to stay with opposing players on the perimeter, his defensive awareness is lacking, and he is prone to blow-bys. The energy that Harrell continuously puts forth on the offensive glass was also missing on the defensive boards.
Future with the Clippers:
It doesn’t bode well for Harrell’s future with the team that his biggest advocate in the locker room is now with the Philadelphia 76ers. It also doesn’t help that Harrell’s on-off numbers during the postseason were absolutely atrocious. Admittedly, the Clippers did not always put him in positions to succeed, but Harrell simply wasn’t good enough regardless of the circumstances.
Only three Clippers had negative net ratings in the playoffs: Landry Shamet at -0.6, JaMychal Green at -4.9, and Harrell at -11.6. To put it differently, the Clippers outscored their opponents by 55 points over 13 games in the playoffs. In Harrell’s minutes, they were outscored by 68 points. He didn’t exactly make the case that he can be a meaningful part of a championship rotation.
Most teams don’t have cap space this offseason, which limits Harrell’s ability to find a landing spot outside of Los Angeles. But after his flameout in the playoffs, it’s unlikely that the Clippers will want to bring him back.
Overall grade: C+
If this were a regular-season grade, Harrell would likely get an A- or B+. But the playoffs were a straight F, which leaves his grade firmly in the middle.