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Restricted free-agent center Montrezl Harrell agreed to terms on a two-year, $12 million deal to return to the Los Angeles Clippers, agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday.
The Clippers acquired Harrell from the Houston Rockets as part of the trade that sent Chris Paul to Houston last offseason. The 24-year-old was an effective role player off the bench for Los Angeles.
He averaged 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game in 76 appearances. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, they balanced out to 31.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference.
The Clippers were 2.3 points better per 100 possessions when Harrell was on the court, per NBA.com.
All things considered, Harrell has provided an excellent return as a second-round pick in the 2015 draft. Before he was moved to Los Angeles, he averaged 22.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per 100 possessions in his two seasons with the Rockets.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said in March the former Louisville star had far exceeded the team’s expectations, per the Los Angeles Times‘ Broderick Turner:
“You just learn more and more about him as you coach him. You never know a guy until you coach a guy. When we got him, we looked at him as an energy guy, a guy that can play defense. That’s what he did everywhere he’s been.
“And then every practice he gets in, he keeps scoring. And scoring. And then we started thinking, ‘Maybe he can score a little bit.’ He’s been better than that. He’s been great. He just plays hard too.”
Harrell’s performance was to some extent a double-edged sword for the Clippers, though. The better he played, the more his profile grew. That, in turn, meant more teams chasing him in free agency.
The Clippers freed up a lot of money by trading Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in January, so re-signing Harrell wasn’t too much of an issue financially. But the front office had to weigh that against maintaining as much flexibility as possible to chase bigger free agents.
As good as Harrell is, he won’t put the Clippers that much closer to contending for an NBA title.
Still, re-signing Harrell was the right move for Los Angeles. He proved his worth last year, and depth has long been a problem for the team.
Harrell is also capable of playing power forward, so with Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan no longer in the picture, he figures to be a key reserve in 2018-19 behind the likes of Marcin Gortat and Luc Mbah a Moute.