One of Montrezl Harrell's biggest weaknesses last season was an inability to stretch the floor. The big man took 90 percent of his shots within 10 feet of the bucket. It's one of the reasons the Rockets ran out and signed quintessential stretch four Ryan Anderson to a four-year, $80 million deal.
A modern NBA offense requires a power forward who can drift out to the three-point line and cash a long ball, and an offense led by James Harden, who makes his living driving inside, needs spacing and big man who can compete away from bucket. Donatas Motiejunas may still be in the mix yet for Houston at the four, but even if so, the Rockets need as much shooting as they can get.
Which is why it's imperative that Harrell develops an outside game. The organization has directed him to work on it, and it's a task he's taken seriously so far this offseason. Harrell told the Courier-Journal:
"It definitely helps when you have four guys on the floor that can shoot the three consistently. It makes it almost impossible for other teams to play help defense when anybody can hit an open three."
Harrell has come out gunning in the Las Vegas Summer League games. He shot 19 times from beyond the arc in five games in Vegas, averaging almost 4 attempts per game. The results admittedly have mostly been ugly. He's hit on just three of his attempts and has looked like exactly what he his: a guy still learning when and how to shoot the three consistently at the professional level. That doesn't mean he doesn't have the full green light though.
Assistant coach Roy Rogers told the Journal:
"We've been getting him to expand. You see him starting to shoot threes in games a little more here, and he's been working on them a lot in practice. The way the game's being played now, guys at that position can shoot the three-point shot, so that's something he needs to develop."
Harrell has played well otherwise in Vegas. He's averaging 14.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game on 47.4 percent shooting from the field. He still fouls a little too much, averaging 3.6 personals in 27.6 minutes per game against a lower level of competition, but he's mostly looked a few steps ahead of the vast majority of the summer guys.
Despite being a second-year player that racked up 39 games in with big boys in his first season, Harrell still has a way to go, however, before he can be counted on for more than backup minutes. He's taken this opportunity in the Summer League seriously and used it to work on the critical parts of his game. He said:
"It's been going real well. I've gotten a lot out of Summer League by expanding my game. I'm trying to put the three into my game, and the coaches have really given me the opportunity to work on it out there."
He may never average two threes per game in the Association like the Rockets' current stretch four, but if he can improve that portion of his game just enough to where opposing teams are forced to think about whether or not 'Trez is going to hurt you from deep, all the while maintaining the energetic, hard-nosed play that got him drafted by Houston to begin with, the Rockets may have another capable, modern NBA power forward waiting in the wings.