After an offseason filled with off-court troubles, Montrezl Harrell is finally out of the free agent market after signing a two year, $5.2 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. He will fill the thankless task of backing up All-NBA center Joel Embiid, following the long line of backup centers led by Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, and Greg Monroe.
Harrell will look to reclaim his former glory by reuniting with coach Doc Rivers, with the 6’8 big man coming into his own with the Los Angeles Clippers under Rivers’ tutelage. After a down year spent splitting time with the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets where he averaged 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in only 23.1 minutes of action, such a reunion just might be what Harrell needs.
But is Montrezl Harrell what Embiid and the Sixers need?
With Harrell’s stock the lowest it has been in recent seasons, his addition might be just what the doctor ordered, as his production could move the needle for the Sixers’ depth.
These are three reasons why Montrezl Harrell can be a game changer for the Philadelphia 76ers in the upcoming season.
3. Amidst low expectations, Harrell can focus on playing his game
There will be little to no expectations for Harrell to come in and produce like he did during his Sixth Man of the Year award-winning season back in 2019-20 with the Clippers. While Sixers fans can be loud and mean as well the Sixers could end up just cutting their losses if Harrell proves to be a detriment to team chemistry.
Sixers fans know that no one can ever come close to Embiid’s two-way impact. The Sixers were 11.41 points better per 100 possessions whenever Embiid was on the court, per PBP Stats, a gigantic figure that vaults teams from the top of the lottery to the top of the conference. Embiid just needs the Sixers to hold down the fort whenever he’s on the bench, and, in the regular season especially, Harrell can provide just that.
Harrell will be extra motivated too, because he surely did not expect to sign a deal that pays just $2.6 million annually just two years after his award winning season.
Thus, Montrezl Harrell could just focus on getting his stock back up, especially after questions about his defensive abilities came into the forefront after Harrell and the Clippers suffered an embarrassing 3-1 collapse against the Denver Nuggets during the 2020 NBA Bubble playoffs. If he can show a newfound commitment to the defensive end while continuing his penchant for tough interior buckets, then the Sixers are in business.
2. Harrell’s energy is contagious
During a long, 82-game grind, it’s typical for teams’ motivation to wane. Harrell, known for his energy, hustle, and expressiveness on the court, will provide Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey additional fire to help get the Sixers a high seed in the Eastern Conference.
Look for Harrell to lead the Sixers, along with fellow offseason addition PJ Tucker, in DAWG per 48 minutes, lighting a fire under each and every Sixer to remind them of the ultimate goal for Philly in the upcoming season: winning an NBA championship.
1. Doc Rivers knows how to get the best out of Harrell
Under Rivers, Harrell averaged 18.6 ppg and 7.1 rpg as one of the most rampaging offensive forces off the bench. The presence of Harrell running mate Lou Williams back then got the most out of Harrell’s limited yet effective skillset, and Rivers is the coach best equipped to squeeze the most out of Harrell.
Should the Sixers acquire former Harrell running mate Williams too? Perhaps, but the Sixers have two of the most-gifted playmakers in the league in Harden and Maxey, and Harrell will be getting easy buckets in spades. His field goal percentage was a stellar 64.5% last year, and with a more limited role and the presence of one of the best assist-getters in the league in The Beard, who averaged 10.5 assists in 21 games for the Sixers last season, look for Harrell to be even more efficient this season.
The question with Rivers’ usage of Harrell will be whether he remains stubborn in utilizing the 6’8 big man regardless of matchup. Nikola Jokic famously tore up the Clippers thanks in large part to Harrell’s defensive shortcomings, but Embiid’s presence should make snapping Doc Rivers out of his trances a whole lot easier.