Montrezl Harrell is entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, but the most likely outcome is still for him to remain with the Clippers for the fourth straight season. The Clippers can offer him more money than any other team, and Harrell has thrived under head coach Doc Rivers.
That being said, the postseason laid bare several reasons why the Clippers would be wary of bringing Harrell back for another season. If Harrell doesn’t start next season in Los Angeles, Sam Amico of Sports Illustrated reports, “The Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks are all expected to have interest, though none could come close to signing him at the moment.”
This is somewhat of a surprising list. As Amico notes, the Mavericks and Bulls don’t currently have cap space, and the Raptors have several of their own free agents to deal with. Interestingly, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka could all be Clippers targets should they fail to agree to terms with Toronto.
But let’s briefly consider the fit of all four of those teams. The Raptors make little to no sense. They have their own players to prioritize, and they are judiciously hoarding cap space for the summer of 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent. Furthermore, their team has a strong defensive identity that Harrell doesn’t seem to match at all. It’s hard to see how this would work.
Dallas is slightly more logical. Harrell would be a nice complement to the floor-spacing Kristaps Porzingis (or Maxi Kleber on bench units), though playing him next to Boban Marjanovic would be a non-starter. The Mavericks were rumored to be looking for a bit more toughness, and Harrell fits that mold. Plus, Dallas has a surplus of guards for Harrell to run pick-and-roll with. Commenter teddygreen suggested a Harrell for Delon Wright sign-and-trade, which would give the Clippers an additional playmaker and rescue Wright from the fringes of Rick Carlisle’s rotation.
However, the Mavericks are close to title contention and might be scared away from Harrell’s playoff woes, much like the Clippers. Their cap space would be better put to use on a wing, perhaps someone who could guard a player like Kawhi Leonard.
The Bulls are another interesting fit. They were a dreadful offensive team this season, 29th in the league in offensive rating, and Harrell provides instant scoring. He would complement both Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen well given those two bigs’ willingness to spread the floor. Chicago does already have Thaddeus Young, Luke Kornet, Cristiano Felicio, and Daniel Gafford, so that team doesn’t necessarily have the space for Harrell. Then again, none of those frontcourt players are exactly good. It all depends on what new head coach Billy Donovan is looking for.
I’m not going to lie, I laughed out loud when I saw the Knicks on the list. Another power forward-sized player who can’t shoot is exactly what New York needs, right?
Even though they weren’t mentioned on the report, the Hornets still seem like the most logical destination. They have two bigs under contract for next season (PJ Washington and Cody Zeller), and they were 28th on offense last year, giving Harrell a prime fit and function. Harrell is also from North Carolina, and his deficiencies would be less of a problem on a team simply looking to get back to the playoffs rather than playing for a title.
Where do you think Harrell could land if he and the Clippers part ways?