After winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award for the 2019-20 season, Montrezl Harrell signed a discount contract in free agency to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the Lakers coming off a shortened offseason, they were in desperate need of someone who could score when LeBron James and Anthony Davis were off the floor, and Harrell delivered as he averaged 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in just under 23 minutes. Harrell was a force around the rim as he routinely got free for dunks and outworked opposing bench big men for offensive rebounds and putbacks.
Harrell was also one of the healthiest Lakers as he appeared in 69 games, an underrated aspect of his season considering how injuries ravaged the roster in the second half of the year. However, Harrell’s role in the rotation fluctuated after Los Angeles signed Andre Drummond midseason. Head coach Frank Vogel gave the starting center job to Drummond, which relegated Marc Gasol to the bench and cut into Harrell’s minutes.
Things did not get much better for the 27-year-old in the playoffs as he only appeared in four of the team’s six games, with most of his playing time coming in Game 1, where he scored 12 points in 15 minutes. Harrell did not play in Games 2 and 3 as Vogel opted to go with Gasol to space the floor and only saw eight minutes in the deciding Game 6.
Despite the lackluster ending to his season, Harrell was a constant source of competitiveness and passion, though his future in Purple and Gold is murky.
Harrell had a field day against the Golden State Warriors as he recorded a season-high 27 points to go along with five rebounds and three steals. Harrell was an excellent 11 of 14 from the field and bulled a Warriors frontcourt that could not match his intensity and physicality around the basket.
Harrell has a player option for next year, but it is widely expected he will opt out and become an unrestricted free agent. His fit with the Lakers made sense for the regular season, but his inability to switch or defend the rim was exposed again in the postseason. Davis’ injury opened up more minutes for the center rotation, but if he was healthy, it stands to reason that Harrell would have been the odd man out.
However, even if Harrell does decide to opt-in, he could be used as a trade chip as vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka has few resources to improve the roster. Either way, someone looks at it; it is hard to imagine Harrell returning for the 2021-22 season.