Now that the Clippers’ 2020 season has reached its disappointing end, 213Hoops will work through the roster player-by-player for our “Exit Interview” series. Today’s exit interview features Sixth Man of the Year award winner Montrezl Harrell.
Weight: 235 pounds
Years in NBA: 5
Regular Season Stats: 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 27.8 minutes per game on 58/0/65.8 shooting splits (60.7 TS%).
Playoff Stats: 10.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists, and 0.5 blocks in 18.7 minutes per game on 57.3/20/60.3 shooting splits (60.8 TS%).
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
Back when Taylor wrote the check-in for Montrezl Harrell in late June, expectations for the Clippers (and Trez) were sky-high. There was lots of talk (and rightfully so!) of his incredible partnership with Lou Williams, his value to the Clippers, and the dominant season he’d had off the Clippers bench that made him a favorite to win the 6th man of the year award. While there were some worries regarding Doc Rivers’ tendencies to overplay him, gassing him out in the 2nd half, and regarding his poor matchups with many Western Conference playoff contenders, the overall thought was that Harrell would be a big part of a Clippers’ team that had potential to make a championship run.
Things did not turn out how Clippers fans, the Clippers, or Montrezl Harrell wanted. Harrell missed the entirety of the scrimmage and seeding games in the bubble to be with his sick grandmother, who unfortunately passed away. The grieving Harrell then returned for the playoffs out of shape and out of synch with the rest of the team, and carrying a heavy emotional weight. The result was an atrocious playoff performance (the numbers above are actually boosted by his 20-point effort in the Game 7 rout at the hands of the Nuggets), with Harrell posting by far the worst advanced numbers on the team.
The Clippers consistently played worse with Harrell on the court in the playoffs. He was destroyed by Boban Marjanovic in the Mavs’ series, who prevented him from getting going offensively and scored with ease over him on the other end. Then, in the Nuggets’ series, he was picked apart ruthlessly by a Nuggets’ team that saw a weakness on defense and exploited it. The Nuggets outplayed the Clippers by a staggering margin when Harrell was in the game opposite Nikola Jokic, as Trez proved just too small to do anything to bother Jokic. Outside of individual matchups, Harrell was a nightmare defensively, with a combination of laziness and poor instincts that showed in almost every possible facet on that end. He jumped at every pump fake (even from the likes of Mason Plumlee!) was slow closing out on shooters, didn’t rotate properly on defense, and constantly leaked out on the fastbreak instead of getting in scrums for rebounds. The result was that every Clippers lineup with him on the court performed worse than the ones without him.
Even more disappointing was Trez’s offense. We all knew that his defense was a weak spot that would be taken advantage of, but the hope was that his offense would be good enough to offset the defensive deficiencies. That is not what happened. Trez only had two games with over 18 points (his season average) and both performances saw his points accumulated primarily in garbage time. He failed to punish Jokic (we saw how the Clippers got him in trouble in the Lakers’ series) and was never able to get into the kind of grooves that carried him to the 6th Man Award.
Not all of this was Trez’s fault. Doc Rivers and the Clippers’ coaching staff did not put him in positions to succeed (getting him moving off the move and with momentum going towards the basket) and continuously played him against poor matchups. Jokic and Marjanovic were just too big for Trez at both ends, and he should have played strictly when those guys were off the court. Alas, Doc went down riding his guy, and Trez was not able to reward his coach’s faith.
Future with Clippers
A year ago, Montrezl Harrell was a fan favorite, and his return to the Clippers was of paramount importance. Even in Taylor’s check-in a few months ago, Trez seemed likely to re-sign with the Clippers in the offseason, and Clippers’ fans would have been happy with the decision. Now, things are a whole lot murkier. Not only have many fans soured entirely on Harrell, but the Clippers presumably are lower on him now too, having seen him get exposed in the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Any thoughts of him getting a $20M year deal (as was rumored last offseason) has faded, but will the Clippers bring him back at all?
The rumors and leaks we’ve seen in the days since the Clippers’ exit from the playoffs suggest the team is likely to bring much of its core back. That could include Trez, who was still a major, major part of their regular season success, and who had mitigating circumstances marring his play in the bubble. That said, there have also been rumors regarding his disagreements with others in the locker room, and it’s possible he wants to move on. This is especially true since he is represented by Klutch, an agency known for getting its players paid. This is probably going to be Harrell’s biggest contract, and it makes sense that money would be a top priority for him in this free agency. The Clippers could still like Harrell, but if he wants more money, he could be gone regardless.
There’s a sense that Trez will be moving on this summer, and it’s an outcome that would probably please many, many fans, who were upset with Trez’s play and Doc’s use of him in the playoffs. If so, it would be a sad end to a Clippers’ career that was mostly joyous. Trez blossomed on the Clippers, and provided many fun performances over the past three years, especially in those surprising 2018 and 2019 seasons. If he comes back, hopefully it’s on a fairly reasonable deal that the Clippers could move in the coming years. If Harrell leaves, the best of luck to him in the future.