Kenneth Armstrong: A
The Luc Mbah a Monte signing was my favorite of the summer, but bringing Montrezl back was a very close second. Even before DeAndre Jordan left, it was imperative that the Clippers bring Harrell, who was one of the best backup centers in the league, back. ‘Trez is a great scoring option off of the bench, and has worked extremely hard on his game (highlights of his play in amateur leagues this summer have been insane, though should be taken with a grain of salt). He will likely have to play more minutes with DJ gone, and Doc will not lose sleep over that proposition at all.
But he is also a perfect culture fit. If Steve Ballmer could create himself as a basketball player, that person would be Montrezl Harrell: gritty and explosive. He has a quiet confidence that maps nicely on what the posture of this team should be. The Lob City Clippers had more of an outward swag to them — and they earned the right to beat their chests. This Clippers team, which is very talented yet not nearly as elite as the Lob City roster, will need to find a balance between being confident in their abilities, being humble, and staying hungry. If that’s not Montrezl Harrell, I don’t know who is. It will be exciting to see him lead by example.
Eric Patten: A
Harrell’s return is tremendous for the Clippers. He went from throw-in from Houston in exchange for Chris Paul to arguably being as crucial as any other player in the deal (yes, I am entirely aware Lou Williams was in it). He was such a force last season, both emotionally and statistically, that it was hard to image a 2018-19 season with him in another uniform. He had a similar immediate impact with fans as another gritty big did in 2011-12, when Reggie Evans captivated us all. The difference — Harrell is much more of a competent offensive player, and has more electric athleticism. There plenty of times in which he seemingly outplayed DeAndre Jordan last season, and he will likely at some point take over the majority of minutes for Marcin Gortat in the coming season.
Robert Flom: A
Still just 24 years old, Harrell was one of the best bench players in the NBA last year, averaging 11 points in 17 minutes, and shooting an impressive 63.5% from the field. He’s not a rim protector, but he’s a fine enough defender, though his potent offensive skills render any weaknesses on the defensive rather moot anyway.
Now that DeAndre Jordan is gone, minutes will be available for Harrell at the center position. Marcin Gortat is an ok stopgap center, but he’s on the decline, and Harrell is just a substantially better player at this point in their respective careers. Gortat will probably still start, but Harrell will play more minutes than Marcin, and will likely close games over him. Considering Trez’s age and role, bringing him back on a 2 year, $12 million deal is a steal.
Montrezl’s presence brings other benefits as well. He was one of the emotional hearts of the team last season, his energy and never-die attitude being one the entire Clippers squad took up. There was never a minute where Harrell wasn’t active on the court last year, and that type of play is infectious. Along the same lines, Montrezl’s 2017-2018 season was one of the most fun individual seasons of the past few seasons, as he seemingly grew more and more unstoppable over the course of the year. He’s gritty, he’s fun, and he’s a perfect Clipper for Jerry West, Lawrence Frank, and Steve Ballmer’s vision for the team.
Max Jeffrey: A+
I might just be a bit of a Montrezl Harrell apologist, but I think this was far and away the best offseason move for the Clippers. It certainly didn’t hurt that this was the most team-friendly offseason in a long time for restricted free agents, but $6 million/year is an absolute bargain given Harrell’s skillset. He became an instant fan favorite because of his sheer tenacity at both ends of the floor, with the unwavering athleticism to match. For a player who spends most of his time at center, his 6’8” height might seem too limiting. But his 7’4” wingspan, excellent touch around the basket, and ever-extending range make him a suitable candidate to be the Clippers’ small-ball center of the future. Even when he’s having a statistically-forgetful night, he consistently makes the right plays for his teammates. Whether or not he comes off the bench this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him spend 30-plus minutes a night at center. And look for him to get the green light to shoot the ball more away from the basket. There were plenty of flashes of his offensive versatility toward the end of last season, so expect him to become even more involved to start the season. It will also be fun to see what he can do when he’s surrounded by shooters on the floor. Harrell’s upside is tremendous, and Clippers fans should be very excited.
Michelle Uzeta: A+
Last month I wrote about Montrezl Harrell as a viable new fandom for all the lost Austin Rivers stans looking for a new home. He is certainly my favorite Clipper heading into the 2018-19 season. Harrell is an extremely likable and energetic big, and the Clippers were smart to sign him.
Last season, Harrell was one of the league’s most consistent bench threats. His enthusiasm and competitive nature were appreciated, particularly during games where DeAndre Jordan lacked energy and seemed to just be calling in his performance. Harrell averaged a career-high 11 points, 4 rebounds per game in 17 minutes last season, and logged seven 20+ point games. Harrell also shot an impressive 63.5% from the floor, third best in the NBA, and had an efficiency rating of 24.7.
At six-foot-eight, Harrell is considered undersized for a center. However, with his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim, he is a viable back-up center and a good choice to fill the paint on both ends when the Clippers want to go small, scrappy, and fast. Harrell will bring dominance and spark to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. I look forward to his contributions this season.