On July 29, Montrezl Harrell faces one of the biggest decisions of his NBA career: whether to run it back with the Los Angeles Lakers or test unrestricted free agency.
Harrell, coming off his first season with the Lakers, has a $9.7 million player option for 2021-22. He and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, will have to determine whether the 27-year old can find more than that on the open market or try his chances down the road.
According to reporting from Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus, Trezz is leaning towards picking up the option. Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, and a bunch of other Lakers hit free agency on Aug. 2.
“The most recent intel on Harrell suggests he may be leaning toward opting in,” Pincus writes.
An opt-in would render Harrell only the sixth Laker to be under contract for next season (not including Alfonzo McKinnie's non-guaranteed deal). Los Angeles is already bordering the salary cap before they can even entertain re-signing anybody. The Lakers are looking to upgrade their third-banana spot via trade and will have to far exceed the luxury tax to keep THT (restricted free agent), Caruso, and Schroder.
Harrell picking up the option was not expected when he inked the deal but became dramatically more feasible as the season wore on.
Trezz was an effective innings-eater and energizer during ho-hum regular-season games — an important role, no doubt — averaging 13.5 points on 62.2% shooting and 6.9 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game for Los Angeles.
Frank Vogel complimented Montrezl Harrell's hands after last night's game. Trez has validated the praise on multiple occasions in the first half tonightpic.twitter.com/Eibz4YKVI9
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) March 17, 2021
But, he predictably saw his role limited in the playoffs (9.8 MPG) — a consistent theme of his NBA career — due to his defensive shortcomings, inability to shoot jumpers, and lack of size.
Here is Brook Lopez eating Trezz alive pic.twitter.com/gIIb8tBckU
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) April 1, 2021
Earlier this summer, Harrell — who is prone to cryptic social media posts — seemed to be the latest Laker to question his role under Frank Vogel.
Harrell and Paul may decide that opting-in presents his best opportunity of getting big money in the future and/or an ideal change of scenery. The Lakers can work with Paul on a trade at any point, or Trezz can try his luck in free agency next summer, when, presumably, more teams will have cap space.
For L.A., bringing a good player back at under $10 million isn't the worst development.
At exit interviews, Harrell provided little insight into his future intentions:
“The season just ended last night, so my next focus is going home and being a dad to my kids,” he said. “As far as my future being a Lakers basketball player, we’ll worry about that when the time rolls around.”