The Philadelphia 76ers have leaned even further into the “Philadelphia Rockets” meme with the addition of Montrezl Harrell. The Sixers signed the 28-year-old big man to a two-year contract that includes a player option to beef up their bench.

Harrell played two seasons for the Rockets to begin his NBA career, teaming up with James Harden and Daryl Morey before being traded to the LA Clippers in the blockbuster Chris Paul-to-Houston trade. Then, he developed into one of the best beach scorers in the NBA under current Sixers head coach Doc Rivers.

Now, Harrell will be teaming up with the key fixtures from both teams. Harden made efforts to bring him in and his energy, combined with that of Joel Embiid and P.J. Tucker, should give the Sixers a huge mental edge over any opponent. The addition of Harrell is not without its concerns, though. He has not proven to be a stout defender near the rim, a very worrisome trend for centers. Perimeter shooting and playmaking are also weaknesses of his and he stands at just 6-foot-7.

Although there are some intriguing benefits to the Montrezl Harrell addition, the Sixers have to use him the right way in order to make it work. Here are three key tactics Rivers and the coaching staff have to use with Trezz.

3. Play him next to a playmaker

Although Harrell can handle the ball and finish near the rim, he is best used as a roller to the hoop that can convert tough shots through the defense or throw it down. The Sixers should always pair him with a ball-handler to feed him easy shots when he can’t make one himself.

Although the Sixers don’t have a litany of options, the ones they do have are very solid. The most obvious one is Harden, Harrell’s old teammate who is leaning more into his playmaking talents as he ages. They should have a great time in the pick-and-roll together. Tyrese Maxey could be one, as well, as defenses trying to stop an attack from a speeding Maxey and rolling Harrell will be difficult.

Should De’Anthony Melton be the Sixers’ key bench guard, he too could be a solid playmaker to pair Reed with. He isn’t as adept at playmaking as Harden or Maxey but is still a heads-up passer that can put pressure on the defense. With those two playing key roles off the bench, the offense should be fine when the team’s stars rest.

Harrell’s usage on offense has never been a key issue with him despite the fact that his role is almost exclusively as a finisher at the rim. Still, Philly has to put the right pieces around him in order to maximize his abilities.

2. Play him at the four next to Paul Reed (or even P.J. Tucker)

Live and breathe the NBA?

🚨 Get viral NBA graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

Harrell’s defensive shortcomings make it tough to speculate what position he should play. At the four spot, he would have to cover more space but his role will not be as important as the five spot. Therefore, playing him at the four next to a center with defensive chops like Paul Reed seems like the best way forward.

Playing Harrell and Reed together could also benefit Reed. Bball Paul has a playmaking knack that has not been as present in the NBA as it is in the G League. With a top-notch threat to dump the ball to down low, Reed could showcase his well-rounded game more often and add another layer to the Sixers’ bench offense. Reed also has the mobility and awareness to cover a lot of ground on defense.

Another pairing could be that of Montrezl Harrell and P.J. Tucker, though an undersized frontcourt may be worrisome defensively. Tucker has experience playing the five but with Harrell as his key partner down low, it may only be something worth experimenting with rather than relying on. But the offensive fit is seamless, as Tucker is a pure shooter and Harrell would benefit heavily from the spacing he provides.

One of the immediate reactions to the Harrell signing among Sixers fans was posturing about what the move meant for Reed. Philly fans have understandably grown fond of Reed and are concerned that Harrell will take his playing time. Rivers should simply play them together, as it could be a mutually beneficial partnership. Harell will no doubt be in Rivers’ rotation and playing him with Reed is likely the best way to cover up for him on defense.

1. Make him earn his minutes in the playoffs

This one is less of a tactic and more of a stance Rivers must make when the postseason rolls around. He has to realize how effective Harrell can truly be when the games matter most and play him accordingly.

The DeAndre Jordan debacle from last season made fans extra wary of Rivers’ rotation decisions. Although Reed probably wouldn’t have been the difference between winning and losing amid multiple injuries to Embiid, he proved to be a more dependable option than Jordan. Harrell is not the same as Jordan but he does bring similar concerns.

Harrell is not known as a strong playoff performer. His reputation is that of the complete opposite, in fact. His lackluster defense proved to be costly in 2020, when the Clippers surrendered a 3-1 lead to Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the conference semifinals. In his last taste of playoff basketball with the Los Angeles Lakers, he played just 9.8 minutes per game in four contests of a six-game, first-round series defeat.

Montrezl Harrell’s defensive shortcomings will be exposed in the playoffs, even if he plays an optimized role. Rivers shouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt when deciding who becomes Embiid’s primary backup. Make him earn his playoff minutes, as the non-Embiid minutes are always crucial for Philadelphia in the playoffs.