Montrezl Harrell must prove he can play bigger centers before free agency

The LA Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell must prove he can play against bigger centers.

Montrezl Harrell will be one of the most sought after free agents this offseason. There’s no doubt about that. The Clippers’ center has had a career year and is the frontrunner to win Sixth Man of the Year.

With the salary cap in flux for next year, the amount Harrell gets is really up in the air. If he wants to maximize the amount he gets, whether from the Clippers or another team, he needs to prove in these playoffs that he can handle playing against larger centers.

Trezz is a great offensive player but Rick Carlisle proved in the first round that he cannot always handle size thrown at him, especially defensively. Boban Marjanovic gave Trezz issues. In 14:35 of minutes matched up against each other in the first round, Boban connected on seven of his ten attempts from the field. A smaller sample size, Kristaps Porzingis, made both of his attempts from the field in the 1:52 the two were matched up.

It was an issue in the regular season as well. Here are some “bigger” centers, their time matched up against Trezz during the year and how they shot from the field.

  • Clint Capela: 17:01 minutes – 60%
  • Jakob Poeltl: 11:37 minutes – 85.7%
  • Jonas Valanciunas: 11:31 – 50.0%
  • Steven Adams: 11:24 – 66.7%

With Denver sporting a lot of size, this second-round matchup gives Trezz a chance to prove the doubters wrong. In two games against the Denver Nuggets this season, Trezz was only matched up against Nikola Jokic for 4:10 total. Jokic scored just seven points, making two of his five attempts from the field. Not bad, right?

That’s not where the issue lies, surprisingly enough. The issue lies with Mason Plumlee. In 8:47 minutes of being matched up, Plumlee only scored 5 points. That doesn’t seem bad until you look at the team’s scoring. In those 8:47, Denver scored 51 points as a team. That’s not ideal.

Now, granted, these minutes likely came alongside the rest of the Clippers’ bench which includes some negative defenders in Lou Williams and Landry Shamet. Regardless, as we saw versus Dallas, Trezz does get caught in no man’s land during pick-and-roll action, leaving a lot of space for opponents to score.

Do I think this is an issue he can overcome? Of course.

Trezz might be undersized but we know he is a workhorse that is full of energy. Most of the time, he just needs to make the smart play which starts at keeping his man from getting a deep post. If he can keep Jokic or Plumlee away from the block, his defense will probably look a lot better.

As he goes into free agency, teams have to be keeping this in mind. While Trezz has shown his greatness, he can’t have such an obvious counter to his effectiveness. During the league’s hiatus, Harrell compared himself to Dennis Rodman. While there are some similarities, he needs to prove his defensive worth if he wants that comparison to really stick. The second round is the chance for him to prove it while also helping his team get to their first-ever Western Conference Finals.