News just broke that former Clippers center Montrezl Harrell will sign a 2 year, approximately $20M deal with the cross-town rival Los Angeles Lakers. This is both surprising (Harrell leaving his home of three years for their biggest rivals) and also unsurprising (he’s a Klutch agent, and Klutch is LeBron James’ agency).
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Harrell came over to the Clippers in the summer of 2017 as a minor piece to the Chris Paul deal. Originally the 3rd center in the Clippers’ 2018 rotation, he soon surpassed Willie Reed and won fans over with his energetic play and scoring around the rim. The Clippers re-signed him to a 2 year, $12M deal in the summer of 2018, a deal that was regarded as a steal at the time. Harrell outperformed that contract, combining with Lou Williams to form one of the highest-scoring bench duos in league history over the next two seasons.
However, Harrell’s popularity disintegrated in his last year with the team. Some of that was not his fault, as former coach Doc Rivers played him far too much and for too long a period of time over the superior player in Ivica Zubac. This overuse culminated in the 2020 playoffs, when Rivers’ refusal to bench Harrell was perhaps the primary reason for the Clippers’ devastating second-round loss to the Nuggets. Now, Trez is gone, and to the Lakers at that. For some fans, losing Trez to the hated Lakers will be upsetting – Harrell really grew into his own on the Clippers, and watching him improve and expand his game was a lot of fun. However, Trez’s limitations defensively made him ultimately expendable to the Clippers despite his scoring prowess.
This is probably a decent move for the Lakers. The Clippers did not have a rim-protecting big man who could stretch the floor like Anthony Davis, and he and Trez should be able to play together. Davis and LeBron can cover up most of Trez’s biggest issues on defense, while Trez will dominate in the pick and roll with LeBron and new acquisition Dennis Schroder feeding him the ball. Considering, however, that the Clippers were significantly worse off with him in the playoffs, and that there are still quite a few more well-rounded big men on the market, this isn’t quite as scary an addition as might seem.
The Clippers can now move on, and will presumably seek a backup center who has stronger capabilities defensively than Trez, such as Nerlens Noel, Tristan Thompson, Marc Gasol, or Aron Baynes.
Ultimately, Clippers should remember Harrell fondly, despite his “defection” to the Lakers. He went to a team that offered him a significant pay raise, one that has a big role for him, and that is contending for a championship. There should be no hard feelings there. While his tenure ended in disappointing fashion, he was a huge reason that the 2018 and 2019 seasons were so enjoyable, and gave Clippers fans a lot of good memories over that time. Montrezl Harrell going to sign with the Lakers will make it impossible for Clippers’ fans to root for him in the short term, but in the long term, I wish him well.