Does Montrezl Harrell Give Doc Rivers An Excuse?
Yesterday, a strong, depth-creating offseason continued for the Philadelphia 76ers when Free Agent C Montrezl Harrell signed a 2 year deal with Philly. Harrell is a nice signing; he’s a veteran big man who won NBA 6th Man of the Year in 2019-20 under Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes in on a 2 year deal with a player option, and fills a need. Good signing, right? Well, the answer to that is probably yes, but it could also open the door for an excuse for Doc Rivers. It’s an issue that drove Sixers fans crazy last year, and this move certainly creates the possibility of a 2nd straight season with the same issue.
What issue is that? Well, it centers (no pun intended) around one Paul Reed. Now this is not a Paul Reed-centric issue at its core. Doc Rivers has been notoriously slow to give young players opportunities over proven vets, even when it looks like the young player has earned more opportunity. I mean, Tyrese Maxey barely played in the playoffs his rookie year and we see what he turned into. That being said, there is a sizable skill gap between youth depth pieces this year for the Sixers at every position except for one. It looked like this year was going to be the Paul Reed opportunity year; until yesterday he was the backup 5 on Philly’s depth chart with only Charles Bassey behind him. The Harrell signing changes all of that. With Rivers’ history of favoring veteran players, coupled with Harrell’s history with both Doc and Assistant Coach Sam Cassell, it’s easy to see Harrell becoming the go to option when Joel Embiid goes to the bench. Is that the best option for the team long term, though? The argument could be made that it’s not.
Last year, Harrell averaged 13.1 ppg, 6.1 reb, and 2.0 asts, which are respectable numbers that may have been slightly juiced by the fact that he played for Washington and Charlotte, two teams that had more opportunity to work with the ball than he’ll get in Philly. Still, though, that stat line would indicate Harrell brings impact to the Sixers, which I do think is true. The big worry about Harrell, though, is that he struggled in his last playoff appearance 2 years ago with the Los Angeles Lakers, looking nearly unplayable. That being said, this is less of an indictment of Montrezl Harrell, and more of a promotion of Paul Reed. The Sixers desperately needed Reed to be an impact player in the playoffs last year following the trade of Andre Drummond and the injury to Joel Embiid, but Doc Rivers had spent the later part of the season burying Reed behind DeAndre Jordan. Because of that, Reed did not seem prepared as he could’ve been with more run in the regular season. The Harrell signing is not a bad one, not at all. How Rivers handles the split between him and Bball Paul, though, could make it seem like one by the time playoffs come around.