Rookie power forward Montrezl Harrell, like his fellow rookie Sam Dekker, was covered a short while back in our NBA Rookie Week series. And also like Dekker, very little has changed for Trez since early March.
Harrell's only played in six games since we last took a closer look at him, and his statistics for the year remain roughly the same. He finished the season averaging 3.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 0.4 blocks on 64.4 percent shooting in 9.7 minutes per game on 39 total appearances.
His per 36s look a little bit more robust, standing at 13.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block, and his enthusiasm and hard-nosed play was much needed on a Rockets squad notorious for its dearth of fire. But his inexperience, lack of range, and occasional immaturity kept his minutes limited, even with the power forward slot open for the taking for large chunks of the season.
The Rockets value a power forward with spacing capability, which is why as the season dragged on, Houston settled on Donatas Motiejunas and Michael Beasley at the four. Unfortunately for Harrell, he has yet to develop his game away from the basket, with over 90 percent of Trez's shots coming within 10 feet of the bucket. And while there's something to be said for his high shooting percentage, Harrell's restricted range handicapped the Rockets from a versatility standpoint.
And while his effort was certainly noticed and appreciated on a team that often needed an emotional lift, his defense wasn't quite sharp enough to outweigh his offensive limitations. Harrell finished with a defensive plus/minus of -0.7, and a differential percentage of -1.2 (meaning he held opposing players to 1.2 percent less shooting than their normal season averages).
Taken together, those aren't terrible numbers, especially for a rookie, but they're just not enough to outweigh the -1.2 offensive plus/minus and narrow repertoire demonstrated in putting the ball in the bucket.
It's worth mentioning that coach J.B. Bickerstaff had very little margin to allow rookies to learn while on the court. The team struggled to stay at or above .500 all season long, and the young interim coach felt significantly more comfortable leaning on veterans than on the typical inconsistencies and learning curves usually reserved for first-year guys.
In between several trips back and forth between the D-League, Harrell also managed to snag a 5-game suspension while playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for pushing a referee hard to the ground during a player skirmish. It was not a good look for the big man out of Louisville and illustrates the need for added maturity to the youngster's game.
The fire burning in Trez's belly is a good thing for the Rockets, but only if he can control it and harness it for the powers of good. This was not one of those moments.
Despite the up-and-down initial season, Harrell did flash tantalizing potential in his limited time and may be graced with an opportunity moving forward to seize the starting power forward position. With Terrence Jones likely on his way out and rumors circulating that Donatas Motiejuans will also hit the open market, the Rockets will have a huge, gaping hole at the four.
And while the Houston front office will be in search of upgrades at the position-- and names such as Al Horford, Pau Gasol, Ryan Anderson, and Jared Sullinger are potentially available-- for the time being at least, Harrell just may have an inside track on seeing some serious court time in his second season in Rockets red.