The postseason did not go well for the Clippers as a whole, but perhaps no single player was as loudly pilloried as Montrezl Harrell. After an outstanding regular-season campaign that saw him win Sixth Man of the Year, Harrell was a shell of himself in the playoffs, and for good reason.
The loss of his grandmother clearly had an enormous impact on Harrell’s psyche, one that he acknowledged multiple times over the course of the postseason. Secondly, being with his grandmother in her final days left Harrell out of all of the seeding games, forcing to play his first meaningful basketball in the first round of the playoffs. His rhythm was never quite right as a consequence of that lack of practice time.
On top of all that, the Clippers coaching staff didn’t really put Harrell in position to succeed during the series against Dallas and Denver. He was often matched up against Boban Marjanovic and Nikola Jokic, two large and imposing centers who exploited their physical advantages against Harrell.
The combination of those factors resulted in Harrell’s pre-hiatus averages of 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game dropping to 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds during the playoffs. Some of that decline was a matter of Harrell playing fewer minutes in the postseason, but he was also less effective overall.
Nevertheless, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Monday that the Clippers are still interested in reuniting with their free agent-to-be sixth man.
Harrell and the Clippers have mutual interest to find a deal, but Harrell is expected to be a sought after in the market place and have multiple suitors.
Harrell just finished a 2-year, $12 million contract that ended up being a steal of a deal for the Clippers, as Harrell consistently logged heavy minutes off the bench and formed a deadly two-man combo with Lou Williams. This will be Harrell’s first opportunity at unrestricted free agency, and thus his first chance to secure generational, life-changing money for himself and his family.
Before the start of the postseason, it was expected that Harrell could earn as much as $20 million annually on his next contract. Most teams will not have that much cap space, though some rebuilding clubs like Charlotte — which is close to Harrell’s home town — could give him a deal in the range. The Clippers will likely aim a little lower; this team still has a championship aspirations, and paying that much to a backup big who can be targeted in the playoffs isn’t a winning proposition.
That’s to say nothing of the reported conflicts between Harrell and Paul George during the Denver series, which could be indicative of the larger chemistry issues within the team throughout the season.
There is no denying the value Harrell brought to the Clippers during the regular season. He brought energy and production to the team every game (he missed only one with the flu) when there wasn’t much else that this group could rely on consistently. He has shown real growth in his three seasons in Los Angeles, and he has earned a significant raise from his current deal.
Whether the Clippers are the team to offer him that next contract will reveal a great deal about what this team’s priorities are in terms of roster building for next season. This season made it very clear what Montrezl Harrell can and cannot do, and the Clippers will have to figure out which of those is more important.