When the Houston Rockets took Montrezl Harrell in the 2015 NBA draft buzz started to build around the city.
"Man, the Rockets got a steal with the 32nd overall pick," people said.
Harrell, per mock drafts, was supposed to go somewhere in the mid to late first round. Instead the Rockets snagged him up with the second pick in the second round. Daryl Morey strikes again! Another talented player fell right into the Rockets laps.
While he showed his talents going into training camp and the preseason, he really was not supposed to see the time he is getting now. These are Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones' minutes, but those guys are not healthy.
"I've just been taking the opportunity I've been blessed with in stride," Harrell told TDS.
When getting minutes, Harrell is not just taking up space, he is unleashing the beast inside. Honestly, I don't think people thought when Rockets put Harrell on the floor that they'd be getting the best offensive player in the NBA.
I'm joking, but there's a shred of truth there. No, player in the NBA who has played more than 60 minutes this season has a higher offensive rating than Harrell's 150. Not even Stephen Curry.
"When we're at practice and when we're going through player development, when I have those sessions with my coaches, I just try to go 110 percent," Harrell said of his hot start offensively. "I know that they're putting us in situations that we are going to see in the game,"
Allen Iverson may scoff of the idea of practice, but Harrell sure is not taking for granted the tools available to him to grow as a player.
"Everything I do, it's coming from learning, it's coming from getting the reps over and over again," Harrell said.
So far in the young season he has made 14 of the 17 field goals he has attempted. While he has had a lot of dunks and layups, he actually has showed some good moves, mixing in some solid hook shots and fancy footwork.
"I got the hook, left-hand and right-handed. And dunking the ball, that's what I do special," Harrell said. "It's about staying in your area and what you do best at the game, not trying to do something you're not,"
When Harrell enters the game he brings a lot of energy and hustle to the floor. The Rockets also seem to get much quicker on offense and a little bit more physical on defense when Harrell is in the game.
The second-round pick did not play much in the Rockets' win over the Thunder (only 2:39), but he did have a memorable moment in the game.
The Thunder came down and were trying to get the ball Enes Kanter down on the low block with Harrell guarding him. Harrell not only didn't allow Kanter to get set, but it also looked like the smaller Harrell was bullying the much larger Kanter while fighting for position.
There is a lot to like about Harrell and his fast start to the season, but there is still plenty of room for growth.
"More so on the defensive end," Harrell said of where he is trying to improve. "Knowing the tendencies, and knowing my rotations a lot more."
If there is one thing the Rockets do a lot, it's switching and rotating. Knowing his assignments and where he needs to be is as important as anything else Harrell will do on the defensive end.
Harrell, while a touch undersized, has the tools to be a really outstanding player: Energy, effort, hustle, offensive skill, strength, and a massive wingspan.
The second-round pick from Louisville will have his chances to make his mark this season. With injuries to bigs Motiejunas (back), Jones (eye) and Dwight Howard not playing in back-to-backs at least early on in the season, Harrell will get playing time by default. If he continues to do the little things and not play outside of his game even when the others start playing full-time, there still should be a role for the hustling dunker.